Monday, April 3, 2017

Looking for Spring

Yesterday I took a long stroll along the North Country Trail above the Manistee River in a quest to find signs of spring. Yes, the day was warm and spring-like, but you had to really look hard to find signs of spring.

One butterfly, seemingly out of season because there is nothing blooming, flitted about, occasionally pausing on the leafy ground. There were a few insects. Good, that means protein for soon-to-come baby birds. But for now, only a few robins found food to eat. Aspens displayed fuzzy buds that soon will be followed by flowers and later a flush of spring-green leaves.

Still, although the calendar says April, it was hard to find signs of spring in the northwoods. At times, swirling winds shifted last fall's thick layer of leaves. The woodland wildflowers have yet to feel the touch of a warm rain followed by a sunny day to wake them from their slumber. Soon spring will arrive and seemingly overnight the forest floor will undergo a magical transformation.

It has been almost a year since the woodland wildflowers have announced the coming spring. I cannot wait to again see the delicate bloodroot with its pure white petals. I anxiously await the arrival of patches of spring beauty, the aptly named Dutchman's breeches and hepatica, also known as liverleaf, which brave the still fickle early spring weather to give a sense that spring is finally making progress.  Even a tiny violet will be a welcome sight. In wetter areas, early blooming marsh marigold will put on a dazzling display of yellow and green. Seemingly infinite numbers of yellow trout lily with its spotted leaves and graceful flower at the end of a stalk are another sure sign of spring. 

I must admit that I cannot wait for the later blooming wildflowers to announce that spring is finally here to stay. The giant white trillium is by far the star of the spring woods. In places, it seems to form a carpet of blossoms. Not to be outdone, the individual or small areas of red trillium, also known as wake robin, add an unexpected splash of red. The large-flowered


bellwort, with its bell-shaped yellow flowers, complements the white trillium. With spring in full swing, bees will buzz among this kaleidoscope of woodland flowers. Spring in the woods lasts only a short time, as the blooming spring ephemerals quickly fade in the shade of emerging leaves on the trees overhead. Spring however short is still much anticipated.

Meanwhile, I wait patiently as the sun tilts ever higher in the sky and the days grow warmer.  Soon there will be new life everywhere, and with a spring in my step and a smile on my face I will traipse down the trail surrounded by the magic of spring. 

Wake Robin