Friday, April 13, 2012

My Favorite Wildflower

This may seem a silly title. How can you choose a favorite wildflower? Could I choose a favorite artist, or even a favorite bird artist? Probably not. There are just too many of each that I like and admire.

Still it is possible to have favorites, even if they change from time to time. We've been fortunate in being able to buy many of the wildflowers that we've admired in the wild: Trillium, Bloodroot, Black and Blue Cohosh, among others. The pure whites of Trillium Grandiflorum and Bloodroot, coupled with shapely leaves make them very admirable in themselves. At times each has been my favorite.

And of course there are the orchids, including the ones we see most often: Yellow and Pink Lady's Slippers. Of the two the Yellow is the most striking to me. They are offered for sale occasionally but are quite expensive. I think if we had them I'd feel a bit like I had a Maserati parked on the street. It would be just too good, and gaudy, for the likes of us. And we'd worry about it.

We became most educated about wildflowers during our many vacations in Shenandoah National Park. That education was supplemented by our travels in Pennsylvania, particularly along the Wissahickon in Philadelphia.

Gradually we've bought many of the woodland wildflowers that we've admired at Shenandoah and elsewhere. But the favorite I show above is not I think a woodland wildflower. We first saw it at Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park about 20 years ago. There is was in full sun.

There was just something about it that was striking. The warm and rich golden yellow of the flowers, the deep maroon of the stem, the shapely basal leaves coupled with fern-like true leaves. It was quite a combination. But we were never able to find a place to buy it. Then a few years ago we found one at Bowmans's Hill Wildflower Preserve. It's taken a few years to get established but this year it looks particularly good.

The one problem is that the stems are purple only as they start off on this particular plant. Then they turn green. I don't believe this is true with the beautiful plants of Shenandoah. Still we can't complain. I took these photos yesterday in a very strong wind. I particularly like the fact that the plants seem oblivious. The petite flowers are firmly anchored on those strong, if wrongly colored, stems. It's a hardy little beauty and my favorite wildflower, at least this year.

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