Two modest little spring flowers

These are the days when the woods, the fields, and the gardens are just starting to show the promise of things to come.
Around the houses, tulips and daffodils are out. And everywhere, the trees are budding and the grass is starting to turn green again.
Out in the woods, the same thing is going on. Instead of showy tulips, however, we have some fragile and delicate spring blossoms.
Here are two you might come across if you are out in the woods—on your way to go fishing, for instance.
•The Hepatica
One of the very first flowers of spring, this plant doesn’t look very hardy at all. It looks so dainty, in fact, that we wonder how it can grow in our climate at all, much less in the very early spring.
But it does grow—from Manitoba to the Maritimes, and south to Florida. It also grows in northern Europe and Asia.
“Hepatic” come from a Greek word meaning liver. The leaves of the Hepatica are shaped like something like a human liver, and that’s how it got its name.
The leaves which are on the plant now are last year’s. It will develop new ones after it has finished flowering.
The flowers themselves are very pretty, indeed—white, pink, or lavender in colour and borne on very hairy stalks about six inches high. The petals are not really petals at all (it doesn’t have any).
For those of you who can vaguely remember some high school botany, the corolla is missing. The calyx forms the coloured part, and what appears to be the calyx is just a row of greenish bracts.
Hepatic americana—to give its scientific name—often is found in very large patches and usually in fairly open woods.
It is one of our first spring beauties; often in bloom before the snow has gone completely.
•The Trailing Arbutus
Anyone who has ever lived in the Maritimes, or New England, will know about the Mayflower. It is the state flower of Massachusetts and the provincial flower of Nova Scotia.
This flower, too, blooms very early in the spring. There are some areas here in the northwest where the Arbutus grows in great numbers.
It is a very low-growing plant, almost vinelike, with very dainty white or pinkish tube-shaped flowers. They grow so low to the ground, in fact, that sometimes you have to really look hard to find them.
The flowers have a very pleasing perfume—the smell of which makes all expatriate Maritimers long to see the sea and the lobster pots again.
Years ago, Mayflowers were sold by the handful in the streets of both Halifax and Boston, but no more. They are becoming scarce, and are protected by law in all the eastern states and provinces.
Just as with the Hepatica, the leaves which are on the plant now are last year’s. And the flowers often are found in (or even under) the snow.
The Arbutus can be purchased from some nurseries, but it requires an acidic soil and is quite difficult to grow under domestic conditions.
Epigea repens—the Trailing Arbutus—is one of the most delightful of our early spring flowers and one of our most cherished.

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