Emerging Ephemerals

by Josh Palumbo, Forest Management Coordinator

I welcome you to The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen’s attempt to bring some nature and knowledge into your home. The Nine Minute Naturalist borrows from NPR’s lovely 90-Second Naturalist podcast. Since we all have a bit more time on our hands, the goal is to take something that is happening out in our environment and stimulate your brain for roughly nine minutes. Don’t let something as “minor” as a quarantine to keep you from learning. I hope you enjoy!


The stark winter atop Wintergreen creates a craving for anything to break the monotony of muted colors. Thankfully we have the coming flood of spring ephemerals to attract the eye of outdoor enthusiasts. We are just now entering the bonanza of diversity that defines our island in the Blue Ridge. Now is the time to get fresh air and find so many of the wonderful iconic plants of Wintergreen.

The essence of all ephemeral plants is the idea of short lived life cycles. The goal is to get above ground and go from flower to seed before the canopy closes overhead. Wintergreen’s rich, moist soil, along with vast areas of forest floor that has never been under plow, creates an ideal nursery for a vast diversity of spring wildflowers.

One of the first among spring ephemerals to look for is bloodroot, Sanguinaria Canadensis. This plant has a singular leaf and white flower that open in full sun and close at night. It is named for the red juice in the lower and underground stem that has traditionally been used as a dye, insect repellent, and to induce vomiting (I wouldn’t recommend ingesting this plant). This plant can be found throughout Wintergreen’s landscape.

Another sure sign of spring is spring beauty, Claytonia Virginica. This low-growing perennial tends to be found in large patches. It has a smooth grass-like leaf and a pink or white flower with dark pink stripes. This edible plant was traditionally used for food and is still used as a wonderful garnish to salads. This plant tends to be found in great volume in the valley of Wintergreen, especially in the Allen Creek Nature Preserve.

The most iconic ephemeral at Wintergreen has to be trillium, Trillium Grandiflora. The great white trillium is a long-lived plant that thrives in Wintergreen’s rich, undisturbed soil. The leaves, sepals and petals all come in groups of three. The white flower turns pink with age. This plant can be found all along the upper elevations at Wintergreen. One of the best trails is the Old Appalachian Trail from Cedar Drive to Laurel Spring Drive.

One of my absolute favorite harbingers of spring is marsh marigold, Caltha Palustris. This wetland obligate ephemeral is a member of the buttercup family, not related to marigolds (aster). This plant has showy yellow flowers occurring in clusters. This plant can be found in various wet spots around our environment and can also be found in a seep on the current Appalachian Trail just north of Wintergreen. 

I hope this brief discussion of our emerging ephemerals whets the appetite to get out of the house and start exploring the woods. The Wintergreen mountainside has over 30 miles of trails to find all your favorite flowers. Enjoy!

 

Bloodroot

 

Spring Beauty

 

Great White Trillium

 

Marsh Marigold

The “Shadbush”

by Josh Palumbo, Forest Management Coordinator

I welcome you to The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen’s attempt to bring some nature and knowledge into your home. The Nine Minute Naturalist borrows from NPR’s lovely 90-Second Naturalist podcast. Since we all have a bit more time on our hands, the goal is to take something that is happening out in our environment and stimulate your brain for roughly nine minutes. Don’t let something as “minor” as a quarantine to keep you from learning. I hope you enjoy!

As I walked along the Pauls Creek Trail the other day, my gaze went from the hepatica and spring beauty along the forest floor to a white flowered tree just above eye level. I walked over to confirm the identification and sure enough the first Amelanchier arborea was in bloom. This tree is also known as serviceberry, shadbush, shadblow, juneberry and many other common names across its range.

This tree has acted as a measure of time or season for so many through history thus giving its common name special meaning. The name serviceberry reportedly comes from the first settlers that when this tree flowers the winter season is at an end. It meant traveling pastors could begin visiting distant parishioners and also that the ground had thawed enough to do burial services.

The name shadbush is my favorite and acts as a great reminder for me as well. When this tree is in bloom, fishermen are reminded that the shad should be coming up the rivers shortly to spawn. Upon seeing this tree, I didn’t rush to the nearest river and wet a line but instead went on the internet. One of my favorite webcams is the Shadcam on the Virginia Department of Game and Inland fisheries website. The webcam is active from late March to early June spanning the spawning season. The Shadcam can be seen here.

Not only is this tree laden with wonderful common names but it is loaded with redeeming features. This understory species grows to about 15-30ft with wonderful smooth grey striped bark. It is among the first and showiest of all flowering trees and it produces delightfully edible berries in early summer (hence the name juneberry). The berries are wonderful in a pie or eaten raw. It is very hardy and disease resistant and can tolerate a wide range of soils and light levels. The fall color is a deep red that adds lovely color to any woods or landscape.

The shadbush is without a doubt a jewel amid our biologically diverse environment. As you watch the white flowers working their way up our mountainside be reminded of the joys of spring.

 

 

As the temperatures start to rise, so do our hibernating animal friends. Turtles are on the move, including on the roads. Many turtles are severely injured or killed on roads every year. Even if their shells are crushed, turtles can remain alive for days or even weeks in agonizing pain because they have such slow metabolisms. If you see a turtle on the road while you are out for a walk- take action! Be sure the road is clear and carefully move the turtle in the direction he is going BUT be careful if it is a snapping turtle. Snapping turtles can snap at fingers, arms, so take care or contact a local rehabilitator.

 

Staff Josh Palumbo feeds Maizie Our Program Snake and shares a few quick facts about snakes! Got questions? Leave your questions and comments and we will give you answers.

 

Nature-related ideas to keep the restless busy and give the anxious comfort

March 27, 2020

The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen (TNFW) is closed to the public to do its part to curb the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). During this time of closure and social distancing, TNFW will share some creative ideas to help you and your family curb the cabin fever. Check back for something fun you can do with nature. As long as you’re able to do so in a way that meets the recommendations for social distancing, figure out how to get outside however you can.

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Nature-related ideas to keep the restless busy and give the anxious comfort

March 26, 2020

The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen (TNFW) is closed to the public to do its part to curb the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). During this time of closure and social distancing, TNFW will share some creative ideas to help you and your family curb the cabin fever. Check back for something fun you can do with nature. As long as you’re able to do so in a way that meets the recommendations for social distancing, figure out how to get outside however you can.

Build Your Own Fairy Garden

 


 

Nature-related ideas to keep the restless busy and give the anxious comfort

March 25, 2020

The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen (TNFW) is closed to the public to do its part to curb the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). During this time of closure and social distancing, TNFW will share some creative ideas to help you and your family curb the cabin fever. Check back for something fun you can do with nature. As long as you’re able to do so in a way that meets the recommendations for social distancing, figure out how to get outside however you can.

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Nature-related ideas to keep the restless busy and give the anxious comfort

March 24, 2020

The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen (TNFW) is closed to the public to do its part to curb the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). During this time of closure and social distancing, TNFW will share some creative ideas to help you and your family curb the cabin fever. Check back for something fun you can do with nature. As long as you’re able to do so in a way that meets the recommendations for social distancing, figure out how to get outside however you can.

Build A Bug House Craft – For Children of All Ages

 


 

Nature-related ideas to keep the restless busy and give the anxious comfort

March 23, 2020

The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen (TNFW) is closed to the public to do its part to curb the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). During this time of closure and social distancing, TNFW will share some creative ideas to help you and your family curb the cabin fever. Check back for something fun you can do with nature. As long as you’re able to do so in a way that meets the recommendations for social distancing, figure out how to get outside however you can.

Toad Visits the Garden Toad Abode