Monday, April 7, 2014 11 comments

FINALLY, it's spring

Just when I thought it was going to be bleak, cold and miserable for the remainder of my lifetime, I spied some tiny blooms near the path to the waterfall.

The first one is a pretty little yellow flower with brown veins on its lower petals. I don’t recall seeing this Lilliputian lovely last year, and it may be because the Roundleaf Yellow Violet (also known as the Early Yellow Violet or Viola rotundifolia) often has come and gone before other varieties even appear.

Early Yellow Violet
Once the early spring flowers have faded, the attractive heart-shaped leaves keep growing and can measure up to 5” across by the end of summer. 

It is the only yellow violet in eastern North America with leaves and flowers on separate stalks.

My next discovery was growing right by the stream and turned out to be the Sweet White Violet (V. blanda). The Cherokees used this this plant as a vegetable, mixing the leaves and stems with other greens, sprinkling them with salt and frying them up in fat.

The Sweet Violet is very similar to the Northern White Violet but the sweet variety has two upper petals that are twisted backwards. 

I must point out here that these flowers are all of ¼ inch in diameter so your humble scribe should get some extra brownie points (or a bonus glass of red wine) for figuring out the difference.

The Halberd-leaf Yellow Violets (V. hastata) are also making their first appearances of 2014. 

I’ve read the name came about because the arrowhead leaves are reminiscent of a battle-ax type weapon used in the 15th and 16th centuries.

 I’ll have to take the historians at their word.

Confederate Violet
In addition to these early bloomers, we will soon see other varieties including the Confederate, Beaked and common blue violets. 

Because of the diminitive size they can be easily overlooked, even though the humble violet has been celebrated in myths and literature from ancient times. 

In addition to the violets, the Bluets are back. When I first noticed them in spring of 2012, I thought they were Forget-me-nots.

Upon further review, the jaunty blue flowers weren’t forget-me-nots at all, but Mountain or Thymeleaf Bluets, a member of the Madder family. They are sometimes called “Innocence” or “Quaker ladies” because the flower shape resembles a Quaker lady’s hat. They can grow in open grassy areas, woodlands and along streams.

No matter what you call them, these delicate blooms are a welcome addition to my garden.

And it occurs to me if all these beauties are now putting on their spring show, can the roses be far behind?