Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 13: Wildflowers

Because I only carry a pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera, when I'm hiking around I don't take many photographs of birds. Even with a 16x digital zoom, it doesn't have the capacity for a good bird shot. Most of the ones I try are of the "that dark blob there is the bird!" variety. But even when I'm birding, I'm not always looking up in the branches or in the sky. This time of year, especially, I try to also notice what flowers have returned along with our spring birds. Some I've known since childhood, their familiar presence on the forest floor linking me in memory to years of tromping around these local woods: Canada mayflower, trilliums red, white, and painted, hepatica, trailing arbutus, bloodroot, moccasin flower (lady's slipper), bellwort or wild oats, trout lily, rhodora, violets, clintonia... Not all of these are blooming yet, but I'm happy to find even the bright new leaves themselves poking up through the forest duff, knowing flowers will soon follow.

I've realized that a photo is a great tool for recording a plant species I'm not familiar with, to look up later in my wildflower guide. Yesterday, I learned that I'd come across wild ginseng and golden Alexander. Today, wood anemone. Part of my wanting to know and remember the names of all these flowers is the simple desire for knowledge. Knowledge equals power, after all. But there's more to it than that: to know what lives in a place is essential to truly coming to know that place. It's like living in a neighborhood. If you don't know your neighbors, you'll never feel a real attachment to the place, no matter how long you live there. This is my home. I know my neighbors; I know the woman who owns the corner grocery. But when I'm in the nearby woods, I also feel at home there. Here are the little green flags of Canada mayflower among the hemlocks; here is the rhodora in that same wet patch of the field; and here's the hummingbird come to feed.

The hummingbird too
knows wildflowers, rejoices
in their re-blooming.

Wild Ginseng

Golden Alexander


Wood Anemone

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