At 28 degrees it takes conscious effort to get out of my sleeping bag and unzip my tent. Yet, the exertion is not without its’ rewards––I’ve soon trekked to the picturesque edge of the nearby river to watch it slowly slip on in the early morning hours.
I’m in northern Michigan so the northern hardwoods and conifers are at logger-heads for dominance in the region. At the river it’s the Northern White Cedars that hold the most ground. It’s no wonder the colder-climate species are thriving here because this April 2nd morning is snow-covered and brisk.
Although my fingers are getting colder by the minute, the ubiquitous Wintergreen plants don’t seem to mind. The red berries set beneath the evergreen leaves are ready for harvest and I’m taking advantage of the winter-spring harvest beneath me.
These plants, among a few others, not the least being Willow and Yellow Birch, were actually the early source for analgesic (pain-relief) and anti-inflammatory (anti-swelling) drugs. Wintergreen contains methyl salicylate acid which is a near relative to the active ingredient in modern day aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid).
I’ve been collecting the berries by the handful and throwing them back––a refreshing snack on the original breath mint/aspirin.
A number of springs ago I musingly wrote “the Hepatica has bloomed so the cold is doomed…” and that line surfaced to my mind earlier this afternoon. Spring has finally come as some milder, rainy days have both quelled the winter and coaxed the the spring. The Hepatica flowers (mostly actualoba) are out in all their glory. From pure white to pastel pinks and purples, deep violets and everything in-between this spring ephemeral is making its’ short run count.
Spring ephemerals are herbaceous plants (in this case woodland wildflowers) that both blossom and ‘die-back’ within the short few weeks of early spring. Notably, in most cases, the remainder of the plant beside the flowers does persist right through the summer but it is quite unnoticeable at times and certainly lackluster.
Aside from the hepaticas, bloodroot, mayapples, dutchman’s breeches, violets, trout lilies, et al, are also basking in the new spring air. I’ve dug up a bloodroot root and sliced in half––crimson sap oozes, hence its’ name.
If the verdant forest floor and budding canopy are the written ‘welcome signs’ of spring, then it’s the birdsongs that are announcing them verbally. Incidentally, it’s the hushed but hurried, migrating warblers that have grabbed my attention as I’ve spotted them fluttering in the hemlock twigs.
To be sure, the silence of winter’s slumber had established itself as the rule, the orthodox way, the norm and the familiar, so the coming of spring and is auditory world burns like ringing bicycle bells in my ears. I’ve spotted these few ‘yellow throats’ (yellow throated warbler) bouncing between branches and welcome the spotting as one more proof spring has indeed come to stay. Some of these warblers have made the journey from the extreme southern united states or even Central America, so I suppose it pays to make sure winter has passed––an incredible God-given instinct.