Spring Beauty

All posts tagged Spring Beauty

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

The Bloodroot at Ashland burst into bloom on March 13, and already was dropping petals just five days later on March 18. Image by Derek Stoner.

The fourth and fifth weeks of the Signs of Spring Challenge featured a flurry of new observations, most likely due the incredible stretch of warm weather that is literally pushing the petals forth on flowers.

On March 12, mulitple observers reported the return of the Eastern Phoebe, with a vocal male calling all day near the covered bridge.  Then on March 13, a class working in the marsh discovered the first Garter Snake of the season wiggling through the grass.  Also that day, the first Bloodroot of the season was noted in bloom, right at the front door to the nature center.  This particular  flower bloomed exactly a week earlier than it did in 2011.

This week, on March 19, we had two observers share with us new sightings on March 19:  an Anglewing butterfly flying along the floodplain trail and a Spring Beauty in bloom near the covered bridge. 

At the exact half-way point of the 10-week Signs of Spring Challenge, 13 of the 20 Signs of Spring are already accounted for and recorded.   Although lots of Signs seem early, this is exactly where we were in 2011: 13 Signs recorded by March 23.  

Now we wait for the Final Seven Signs:  Water Snake, Snapping Turtle, Barn Swallow, House Wren, Robin building nest, and Trout Lily and Violet blooming. 

What Signs of Spring are you seeing in your yard?

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

The first Spring Beauty bloom of the year at Ashland, on Sunday, April 3. Image by Derek Stoner.

We are just past the half-way point of the Signs of Spring Contest, and already 14 of the 20 “Official Signs” are accounted for and recorded.  Sneaking in at the very end of Week 6 (March 28 – April 3), a Spring Beauty was spotted by Amy White on Sunday, April 3.  The location of this bloom was just downstream of the Ashland Covered Bridge, on the banks of the Red Clay Creek.

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) is a beautiful wildflower that blooms in early spring, and sports a fancy pink and white-striped pattern on the petals. Around Ashland, we see it growing primarily on the floodplain in the rich, loamy soil characteristic of riparian habitats. But, this wildflower is also known for “naturalizing” well in lawns and backyard landscapes. So look around your yard at this time of year– maybe you will discover a Spring Beauty!

A pair of American Toads mating in the Ashland Marsh, circa 2004. Visit Ashland this week to see the toad show! Image by Derek Stoner.

Now for the “Signs of Spring” forecast: with temperatures expected to be well into the 60’s (and even 70’s) this week, and rain likely to fall multiple times, this week should be called “Toad Time.”   Dozens of American Toads will make their way to the marsh, particularly on rainy nights.   The trilling calls of males will lure the females to the pools and puddles where they mate, with the female then laying long strings of hundreds of tiny black eggs.  It’s quite a show, and a true rite of Spring at Ashland.

As for what’s remaining on the Signs of Spring list, we are still waiting for that first Water Snake sighting, the first Barn Swallows to arrive at the lodge, the first House Wren to sing its bubbly song, the first American Robin building a nest, and the first blooms of Trout Lily and Violet.  Stay tuned for the Final Four weeks of the Signs of Spring!

Contest Update:  Two participants are sharing the lead, with a total of 5 out of 14 correct weeks so far.  So, the challenge of guessing the right week is tough, but that’s what makes this a contest!  The best guesser may win!