Monday, March 23, 2015

Wanderings: Seeking Spring (2015)

Some people mark the arrival of spring by the date on the calendar, some by the blooming cherry trees and daffodils in their yard, by the warmer weather, return of migratory birds, or simply by the unmistakable fresh, green fragrance of sweet spring wafting on the breeze.

I know that spring has officially arrived when the trillium flowers bloom in the woods.

When I was younger, my grandpa and I would search through the woods surrounding my childhood home to find these elusive, ephemeral white flowers. Now that he is no longer here, I continue the annual trillium hunt on my own, as a way to remember this fond memory of him, and to celebrate the arrival of my favorite season.

With the record-breaking warm winter we've had in the Pacific Northwest, and given the fact that everything else seems to have burst into bloom earlier than usual, I fully expected to find the woods full of blooming trillium on my visit to the Redmond Watershed Preserve over the weekend, and I wasn't disappointed. My husband joined me on the trillium pilgrimage last spring, and again this year; it's a good thing, because his trillium-spotting abilities are apparently much better than mine! He noticed many of them that I missed.

During last year's visit to the Watershed Preserve, we had to look hard to find any signs of spring, for those starkly white, three-petaled flowers... it was a search, to be sure.  This year, as we set off into the forest and I anxiously hoped we'd be able to find at least a few trillium, we literally stumbled over them, as this little white soldier of spring stood at attention alongside its namesake trail, greeting us into the new spring season:

The first trillium of the year. I was a little surprised and dumbfounded at first; I'd expected to have to search much harder to find one of these flowers. And here this one stood, right alongside the trail in plain sight. It just felt too easy. Spring certainly had arrived boldly and resolutely this year!

All in all, we counted 51 trillium along the four-mile length of the trail. Much better than the lonely two we found last year, on the exact same weekend one year ago.  Here are a few more of the lovely blossoms we spotted:

As you'll notice in the photos above, trillium usually like to grow in areas that are damp and shaded, among the fronds of sword fern or in the hollows beneath a nurse log. This made it all the more unusual to find that first trillium standing brazenly in a relatively sunny and dry area right alongside the trail.

Trillium weren't the only plants blooming in this early onset of the spring season. We also saw flowering skunk cabbage and salmonberry aplenty, delicate bleeding heart just emerging, and huckleberry and other plants already sporting tender green leaves.  Such a difference from this time last year, when the dreary brown tones of winter still had a firm hold on the landscape, and spring appeared to be a distant dream.

Huckleberry leaves
Fern fronds unfurling

Bleeding heart leaves
Muddy, swampy area filled with skunk cabbage! It smelled delightful. Not really.

There were plenty of birds out and about as well; we saw a Steller's Jay, dark-eyed Juncos, and a Northern Flicker - I first heard his dull tap-tap-tap resonating through the forest, and was able to locate him on a dead Doug fir trunk after a few moments of squinting through the branches overhead - as well as many others that I wasn't able to identify. I was hoping for an owl sighting, but no such luck there.

This little frog caught my eye as he hopped out of the way of my approaching boots.  He blended in very well with the leaves!

Birds, frogs, new green leaves and blooming trillium... after spending two and a half hours exploring the forest and counting trillium flowers, we left the Watershed Preserve firmly impressed with the fact that spring has certainly arrived!

Trillium bloom only for a short time, so if you want to see them for yourself this spring, be sure to get out into the woods soon! Also, as a side note... please do not pick them. Once picked, trillium will not bloom again for up to seven years, and the picked flower will die quickly anyway.  These plants should be left in the forest where they belong, so they can grow and bloom again the next year, continuing their duty of heralding the arrival of spring and bringing joy to the hearts of nature nerds like myself who reverently seek them out every year.

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