Ne plus ultra! Think this was the finest afternoon of the season so far. Just perfect, perfect weather. Made the woods even more delightful.
And the way things are blooming now I was snapping like mad, and got pics of at least 10 wonderful flowers, ferns and plants, two of which I’ll post here, the flowering May Apple and the ubiquitous Canada May Flower or Wild Lily of the Valley.
First, Ms. May Apple. I’m still hoping this is the year at least one May Apple fruit tastes like custard, as so many nature writers aver.
MAYAPPLE (Podophyllum peltatum) by Marion Lobstein…
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) is one of the most easily recognizable spring wildflowers by its distinctive foliage. By early to mid-April the unopened, peltate leaves of Mayapple begin to poke through the forest litter resembling a fat green umbrella ready to unfurl. The single-leafed stems will not produce a flower that season. The forked stems bearing two leaves will have a tight flower bud nestled at the base of the two petioles. By the end of April and often the first week of May the lovely white, waxy flowers begin to open.
Found in rich woods, thickets, and even roadsides from Quebec and Ontario south to Florida and Texas, this species is now placed in the Berberidaceae or barberry family although it once was included in the Ranunculaceae or buttercup family. Linnaeus assigned the binomium (genus and species) of Podophyllum from “podos” meaning foot, “phylum” meaning leaf, and “peltatum” meaning shield. Other common names are mandrake, wild lemon, and raccoon berry.
The flowers of Mayapple are up to two inches in diameter with six sepals that are shed early in blooming, 6-9 white waxy petals, numerous yellow stamens (usually twice the number of petals) with the anthers opening down the side, and a pistil with a large stigma. The flowers lack nectar, but offer the native bees and bumblebees that visit them a rich pollen reward. There is a fragrance to the flower that is a bit pungent or musky. Frequency of successful pollination is often not high in Mayapple flowers, even though there is extended anthesis (shedding of pollen) as well as receptiveness of the stigma if pollination has not been accomplished. Queen bumblebees are especially attracted to Mayapple flowers to collect pollen for rearing workers, and thus may be primary pollinators
Then, one of the 17 trillion Lilies of the Valley or Canada Mayflower per acre now blooming in the state woods. If you want to start your wild flower identification with an easy-to-find one, this is your baby.
This small plant grows 5 to 15 cm tall. Its thin stem bears 2 or 3 smooth, elongated heart-shaped leaves. Its small (4 mm) white or cream-coloured flowers are arranged in a terminal cluster. This plant is unusual for a Liliaceae, in that its flowers contain only 2 petals and 2 sepals, instead of the usual 3. Its fruit is a yellow-beige… berry spotted with rust that turns light red when it ripens.
This perennial species flowers in spring, in May and June. Some individuals do not bear any flowers and are formed of a single leaf rising directly from the rhizome.
Wild lily-of-the-valley is frequent and very abundant in cool woods, especially in maple-yellow birch stands, mixed forests, coniferous forests and peat forests. It occasionally grows in Laurentian maple stands and beech stands, as well as in clearings. It is found in central and eastern North America. It occurs almost everywhere in Québec south of Hudson Bay and Labrador.
It often grows on humus-covered erratic blocks, on rotting stumps and abandoned ant hills. Individual plants without stems or flowers are the most abundant by far and often form continuous carpets in the undergrowth.
Small mammals (mice, voles) and ruffed grouse eat the ripe fruit in fall. Snowshoe hares enjoy the foliage.
Uses and effects
The berries are edible. They should be eaten in moderation, however, because they are purgative.
Amerindians used an infusion of this plant to relieve headaches. It can also be used as a gargle for sore throat.
At one time, gamblers used wild lily-of-the-valley root as a lucky charm.