Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Things to Look For NOW that Usually Come in May

Even the less nature-aware people that I know are noticing what a weird spring this has been. Topping the list: yesterday, I ate the first ripe strawberry from my garden.

Below are several things we've highlighted before on the Natural Capital well into May, that are blooming/active NOW. Don't miss them!

What else have you been seeing way ahead of time that we shouldn't miss?

yellow ladyslipper orchid
yellow ladyslipper at TWMA by Carly&Art
We often make it out to Thomspon Wildlife Management Area in early May to see the trilliums and ladyslipper orchids. I know I usually say that there's so much to see in the DC metro area that roadtrips are unnecessary, but the display at Thompson's is really unbelievable. And last night at the Maryland Native Plant Society meeting, someone announced that the trilliums are already blooming.

Photo credit: cotinis
Pinxter Azaleas - Some yards are an absolute riot of hot pinks and purples in the spring with azaleas bred from Asian species. But there is actually an azalea native to this area, and it's quite showy in its own right. They were already blooming a couple of weeks ago in Rock Creek Park -- hopefully we haven't completely missed them.

tuliptree flower
Photo credit: The Natural Capital
Tuliptree Flowers - Tuliptrees are one of the dominant species in the forests in and around Washington, DC. But because the trees are so tall, many people have never seen their flowers. They're blooming now, and you may find some falling on the ground even if you can't see them in the treetops. (But the real treat is, you can drink their nectar.)

Baltimore oriole
Photo credit: Eric Begin

Baltimore Orioles - Migrating right along with the tuliptree nectar are the orioles. Learn to recognize their pretty song and you may greatly improve your chances of actually seeing one. We just heard it for the first time this year on Saturday.

Hummingbird by Jason Means
Ruby throated hummingbirds - Need I say more? Love, love, love these birds and I'm always so happy to see them come back in the spring. It usually happens in May, but there have been reports of hummingbirds in our area already.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Things to Look For in April

This time of year is one of our busiest times: Matt's landscaping business is in full swing, our own garden is plenty of work, and there are so many things we want to look for in the wild! This year I've added to the craziness by enrolling in the Brookside Gardens School of Botanical Art & Illustration, which is a little more than I bargained for -- in a good way, except it's left even less time to update this blog.

And then there's the crazy weather this spring -- everything is 2-3 weeks early! So many of the things on this list are fading fast. I hope you got a chance to enjoy them on this beautiful sunny weekend.

a passion for morels
Morels by It's Greg
Morel season usually starts in early April and goes for several weeks. This year they were out in March and are winding down now. We have friends that had good luck this year, but our normal spots were bone-dry from the drought and the pickings were slim. I'd be curious to hear from other mushroom hunters how your season has been.

GARLIC MUSTARD Alliaria petiolata
Photo credit: natural history man
This Saturday as we took a walk to look for the last morels of the season, I gave up and started pulling out invasive garlic mustard instead. It makes me feel like I'm at least getting something useful done, and every once in a while this strategy has even uncovered a mushroom for me. Check out the recipe for garlic mustard pesto in the comments to last year's post -- it's become a spring staple in our house.
bear corn
Bear corn by The Natural Capital
Bear corn often catches my eye at morel season as it emerges, because it's about the same size and general shape as a morel -- but it's not a mushroom, it's a parasitic plant.
dogwood (ハナミズキ) #3421
Photo credit: Nemo's great uncle
Dogwoods also tend to have a similar season to morels: they were equally early this year, and are a little past their peak now. But there are still plenty of flowers out there if you look.
Photo credit: dancing nomad
And then there are the bluebells. William Cullina says of bluebells , "As best I can determine, Mertensias are not plants at all, but delicate clumps of sky, thinly disguised and sent here for a few weeks each year to bring us earth-bound folks briefly closer to heaven." There are some patches still holding on out there -- this week may be your last week to catch any of these lovely flowers.

Earth from Galileo (NASA)
Speaking of earth-bound, Earth Day is April 22. It's hard to look for the big-picture earth while you're standing on it, but our post has a way to feel the earth move.

What have you been seeing out there lately? We'd love to hear about it. Check out our Facebook page for snapshots from some of our walks this spring.