Seeds and Fruit

They say that April showers bring May flowers, but they got it backwards.  This spring in Ohio, the wildflowers definitely peaked in April, while May has brought rain.

Still, the flowers themselves are only half the show.  After they’re done blooming, plants get down to the real business of reproduction, making seeds (and fruit in which to disperse said seeds).  It’s been interesting to revisit forest floor plants that bloomed a month or more ago and see what they’re up to now.

Bloodroot blooms very briefly…

…and then produces seeds attached to fleshy arils that scream “eat me!” to passing ants.  This seed pod isn’t ripe yet; when it is it will split open.

Mayapples are, of course, named for their fruit.  My understanding is that these fruits are actually edible when they ripen, at which point they turn from green to yellow.  If I happen to find an intact ripe one this summer I’ll gladly taste it and report back, but the problem will be finding one that critters haven’t already got to.

Bishop’s cap, aka miterwort, produced tiny white snowflake-shaped flowers last month, and now each one is a tiny cup holding black seeds the size of grains of sand.

The droopy yellow flowers of bellwort…

…are also developing into little green fruits.  And notice the way the stem of this plant appears to punch right through the leaf; the botanical term for this is “perfoliate,” and I think it looks really cool.

Keep Your Eyes Open

Some of the coolest, most beautiful things to be seen in the woods are also the most inconspicuous.  Take bishop’s cap, for example.  You could completely be forgiven for walking past this stalk of tiny, unobtrusive white flowers without giving it a second look.

But bend over and look more closely.  The flowers may be small, but they’re exquisite, like snowflakes.

And hey, is that a flower peeking out from under this whorl of leaves?

It’s a nodding trillium!  I had never seen one until this spring.  I don’t know if we didn’t have them in the part of the state where I grew up, or if I just wasn’t looking.  Either way, imagine me lying on the ground, stretched out on my side, to get a good shot of this downward-facing flower; it’s a good thing no one else came along on the trail just then, but it was worth it!

I love wild ginger, another plant with a spectacular but easy-to-miss flower.  These pairs of heart-shaped leaves are everywhere right now.

You have to check the base of the stem to find the unusual purplish-red flower.  Why such an odd flower in such an odd place?  It’s pollinated and dispersed by ants, that’s why!