Friday, May 01, 2009

First Native of Spring

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). Note the ubiquitous Garlic Mustard (Allaria petiolata) sprouting beside it to the lower right.

Not really true since the Skunk Cabbage have come and gone but it is one of the showiest native flowering plants to appear this spring. Bloodroot belongs to the spring ephemeral category of plants, which means they appear for a short time on the forest floor before the trees above leaf out and block the sunlight. I have found that Bloodroot has one of the shortest flowering cycles of all the ephemerals, here one week, gone the next.

Bloodroot has some interesting characteristics, not the least of which is its seed dispersal method. This is performed by the exotic sounding scientific term, myrmecochory. To the non-scientist this just means dispersed by ants. The seeds have a fleshy appendage which the ants eat after taking them into their ant warren. Later on the seeds germinate and up comes a new Bloodroot plant.

For the next couple of weeks you can get out and enjoy some of the other spring ephemerals such as Trillium, Trout Lily, Virginia Waterleaf, and Wild Geranium.


Anonymous said...

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native plant girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
native plant girl said...

hi :)

thanks for the myrmecochory story. :) same goes for wild ginger. ants take their seed+ant snack into their warren, then take the rest of the seed out and bury it in their midden/garbage pits along w/ their dead too (always reminds me of how we often plant flowers on the site of our dead too). anyway, two related stories: in sudan and some surrounding countries in africa myrmecochory is esentail for their fynbos plant. fynbos grow is some harsh droughty conditions (helps conserve soils too), and herded animals graze on it.
but.. invasive argentinian ants came in and..., well, they eat the fatty-snack attached to seed, but then just leave the seed on the spot(unburied & not close to a fertile environment like a garbage pit). a result, fynbos regeneration has declined unsustainably, and soils are desertifying, herders are moving around, becoming displaced, not finding sufficient food for their animals... becoming entirely poverished internally displaced persons or refugees, often in the midst of civil and/or international wars. ... which in my mind are often products of things like desertification. regardless, it's a look at impacts of bio-invasions..

OK: happier story: i haven't checked but i'm wondering if their are similar "fatty ant snack" on a few sedge seeds i planted because, although they never came up for me, a couple years later i was visiting a neighbour's backyard and remarked on their sedges. he had no idea what they were or where they come from. i recognized they were the same assemblage i had sowed and laughed with respect for those brilliant ant gardeners: they had chosen a far more appropriate site (in terms of moisture and sunlight) for those seeds than i had planted them in!:P