Friday, April 25, 2014

Morels and Mayapples

Winter seemed to last forever this year. Warmer temperatures, longer day lengths, the success of my kale and cilantro seedlings, the morels in my yard all herald spring days that will slowly morph into the languid summer days of late May and June.

I've found a lot of the red morels this year, all coming up in concentric circles around the typical bottomland species, but I won't eat the red morels. Folks in Missouri swear that they're edible, but when cooked, they emit a chemical that is also used in the manufacture of rocket fuel. Red morels sure are pretty, but tomorrow morning my fancy town Farmer's Market will surely harbor small pints of yellow morels for an exorbitant price. I do think most of the value of a morel, despite what big city folks like to think, rests in the discovery hike, poking around elm-ash-maple woods on early April days. I did tend to laugh when I lived in Brooklyn and saw morels and Appalachian-sourced ramps on the menu available for the price of a small car.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Little Guys in the White River Hills

Back to the far southern reaches of the White River Hills to check in on spring, to see how it's progressing down there. In this country, currently being chewed up by development on wide expanses of glades and restorable woodlands, diminutive Leavenworthia exists in gravel parking lots. The sweet little white flowering Draba cuneifolia is a staple on the glades. One of the largest glade complexes (and with rich soil and Trelease's larkspur no less) has remained open in character because it rests at the juncture of two massive powerline easements that slice through the glade landscape. The White River country remains a hugely significant area for conservation with the sheer amount of glade acreage. So many restorable glades and so much development taking place right on top of them.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Spring Upon Us

Last year, I wanted to visit lawns and lots of rural gravel parking lots to document all of the diminutive spring wildflowers that exist under the pressure of car tires and lawnmowers. In Malden, for example, an uncommon bluet exists in a lawn in a city park and isn't encountered in intact natural communities down there. In an accreted gravel pile, formed out of disturbance, I found what I think is Draba verna, pictured, which is more commonly seen in yards than in native settings. I didn't make my catalog for this year, but urge you to check out lawns in the Ozarks for a great diversity of some of the earliest blooming Missouri spring wildflowers. And you won't find them in spring wildflower guides.

Of course, visiting woodlands, even really lousy bottomlands with doghair stands of boxelders and cool season pasture grass, you should find fantastic spring ephemeral wildflower viewing in the next few weeks. While I normally promote visiting high quality native systems, managed with fire and without logging and grazing pressure, spring wildflowers grow even in degraded sites. Try to avoid woods with scraped soil from ATV traffic and logging equipment, obviously, but the smallest patch of intact woods should produce some of the more common spring wildflowers (and morels a little later). And it's in the bottoms, areas that by July are chocked full of impenetrable stands of stinging nettle, where you'll find the bluebell displays which should begin in the Central Ozarks in the next couple of weeks.

In 2009 and 2011, I scanned in the lovely Paul Nelson spring wildflower illustrations from a now out-of-print wildflower guide. See the post here with some illustrations and follow the link in that post to see the rest of the book. Every year, I have to refresh my brain on the differences between the Anemone and False Rue Anemone. So, the refresher course!