(Above: bloodroot in bloom)
The warm weather and rain have spurred a rapid progression in the spring wildflowers at MSJ. In just the past few days marsh marigold, bloodroot, spring beauty, false rue anemone and dutchman's breeches have started blooming. At peak bloom the marsh marigold will blanket the woodland fen in gold. And now that dutchman's breeches are blooming, be sure to look for queen bumble bees. The odd flowers of this Dicentra species are hard for most pollinators to penetrate; it's almost exclusively accomplished by queens looking for early pollen to take back to their newly-established nests. It's not uncommon to see a frustrated honey bee try, and fail, to get into these flowers.
Two of the flowers now in bloom, bloodroot and dutchman's breeches, have an interesting bit of mutualism with
ants who disperse their seeds. These two spring ephemerals, along with trilliums, trout lilies and hepatica among others, have protein-rich, fatty packets called elaiosomes attached to their seeds. Think of them as ant cookies. The ants carry the cookies, with seeds still attached, back to their nests to enjoy. The seeds are left as detritus to germinate in the nutrient-rich environment around the anthill. This example of myrmecochory is just one of the fascinating interactions that reward close inspection at this time of year. It's still very early in the season - if you haven't made it out to your local park, now is a great time!