Monday, April 19, 2010

Native woodland flowers

This is my favourite part of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Tucked behind a tall fence on one side and Flatbush Avenue with its roaring traffic on the other, here is a little woodland refuge that feels a lot bigger than it is.

I felt quite giddy when I looked down and saw the perfectly poised petals of the unassuming trout lilies catching the westerning sun through the new green leaves overhead. I have loved this flower ever since I first read about it, and had never seen it in bloom here. There are so many of them. Proper colonies...They are very subtle and quite exquisite. Erythronium americanum.

The Erythronium on the forest floor lower down looked duskier in the shade, suggesting a camouflage against last season's fallen leaves.

I have planted hybrid trout lilies successfully in two woodland gardens, one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. Their season is fleeting, and that is what is magical about them. Ephemeral seems a word made just for them. Soft, light, open. Gone.

Another flower I'd never seen here (this is why it's wise to return often, every week in spring), was this white dicentra. Dicentra cucullaria.

A closer view. It's stunning. Isn't it perfect? Brilliant design and flawless construction.

Many violets amongst new ferns.

Dicentra eximia, fringed bleeding heart, with friend.

Virginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica. Edible leaves. And the definition of blue. My school uniform was this blue, and consequently I think I have avoided the colour all my life. Rustenburg High School for Girls. Thank goodness that's over. But then I see a flower like this and remember what blue can be, and do.

Uvullaria sessilifolia -  a bare patch on the ground in summer. Dormant. Zzzzzzz. They are tall and soft-leafed, and growing en masse right now.

Flower like an anemone, leaf like thalictrum? Why, it's Anemonella thalictroides...

Pinxter azalea, I think. Rhododendron canescens? Completely different from the fat hybrids we know, this has a claw-like clasped flower head in bud which opens to horizontal sprays of delicate bloom.

And finally, Hmmm:

I nearly fell into the pond trying to photograph this aquatic plant. Anyone?

They do look kind of edible, don't they?

Speaking of which...Dinner revolved around some delicious, fat field garlic that we found growing in the woods at the northern tip of Manhattan. It was completely different from the small bulbs we found last year in Prospect Park in the fall. Obviously now is the right time for harvesting. We'll definitely return for some more.

So there you have it. From the bowels of New York City.


  1. Edible? They look decidedly dodgey to me!
    I expect Frank or someone will know it and I'll come back to check.The only things I've ever seen like that belong in the not-very-pleasant-fungi group.
    But I love all the others!

  2. Beautiful spring. My grandma lived right off Flatbush Ave. (and at that time you said "Flatbush Ave"....just like that!) on Moffett Street. "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" kind of lifestyle.

    Did you know I got my music education from Ms. Weber who lived on the first floor of the brownstone where my grandmother resided? Piano....once per week.

  3. Marie
    Breathtaking pictures of New York's spring flowers to cheer me up on a cold rainy Cape Town day. BUT we do need the rain so I must not complain.
    So you were a "Rustybug" too? Sounds like you did not enjoy it too much?

  4. great shots, marie. the bee! growing up in massachusetts, we knew the pouffy white blossoms as "dutchman's britches". but those last, at the idea. we are having the downstairs painted, so all books (including field guides) are packed away for now...

  5. I wonder if trout lilies will prosper in Houston. I had not heard of them before, but they would be great for a space that I am working on. I need to begin taking pictures of the flowers in my garden before my little girls decide to pick them to strew over our floors.

  6. I believe the yellow blooming mystery plant is "Golden Club", Orontium aquaticum.

    Thanks as always for pointing out the beauty in things :)

  7. It's so easy to bypass the tiny little flowers, but you have a way of seeing (and sharing) them all.

    Now I want trout lilies!

  8. Oh the spring I love them! Where did you go foraging at the northern tip of Manhattan? Last May I picked wild onion (in PA) and dried them to use all year long. The taste was strong, different, and really good. Next month I'm going back to try to harvest enough for the whole year.

  9. Thanks for the confidence Dinamow!

    Yup, golden club as the gentleman said earlier. But I didn't know it, just looked it up!

  10. dinahmow - yes, they do look like those stinkhorns, don't they?

    Mountain Thyme - now we say Flatbush, period :-) Do you still play the piano?

    Thank you, Lyn. I envy you your green winter ahead. Ugh, Rustenburg. No ideas allowed. I did have a good English and good art teacher, though. And the music was pretty good, too, in a straight and narrow way. But dayeen, dayoud? The horror. I left in Std 9 and absconded to Abbott's.

    Karen - yes, Dutchman's britches for the dicentra cucullaria - I had to look that up.

    Frank SL - not sure about that one...maybe they need cold winters. I strewed some flowers in my long as the girls like them they're off to a good start :-)

    Thank you Paul! I googled to no avail. You know those hollyhocks? Mine have not come up. I might have sent you duds.

    Webb - the little ones are like finding diamonds in the grass. Erythronium "Pagoda" is a popular hybrid...

    Ellen! Enough for the whole year??? Wow. What a lot of work. But having eaten some for lunch, too, I am hooked. Inwood Park.

    Frank - do you have a field guide, and which?

  11. Well, well! Wiki tells me Indigenes used to grind the seeds and tuber;as a sort of flour, I presume.
    Thanks, everyone!

  12. Very pretty! I can tell that you got really up close and personal with some of those beauties.

  13. Marie, I have nominated 66sq,feet in the Mouse and Trowel Awards.

  14. Hi Plants you showed at waters edge are Orontium aquaticum. In PA it is a rare plant and in NY it is a threatened plant. Lucky to have found it and please don't eat it. It is a precious plant.

  15. dinahmow - sounds like a lot of work. I forgot to look i t up in Stalking the Wild Asparagus...

    Thomas - heheheh, yessss. Nose full of pollen. Knees full of mud.

    Jenkins - don't worry! I wouldn't really have eaten it. I'm just food-obsessed. It's in a botanic garden anyway :-) I did not know it was endangered, thank you for telling me.

  16. to read about "golden club" (Orontium aquaticum) go to: <> ------ warning: many parts of the plant are poisonous in the same way as dumb cane (Dieffenbachia)


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