Bloomin’ Early

by Carl Strang

With a string of record highs, and temperatures remaining warm overnight, the degree-days have accumulated to the point where lots of plants are flowering already. Usually I don’t have much to say about phenology until the end of April, but this year it is clear that many species will be showing their earliest flowers of the past four years at Mayslake Forest Preserve by a significant amount. Today I’ll share a few of these early bloomers.

In previous years I hadn’t recorded the first flowering date for weeping willows, but they were going full blast last week.

Another woody plant that opened flowers last week was the wild plum.

These flowers have superior ovaries, though it isn’t obvious until you dissect one.

Spring beauties are expected to be among the first native wildflowers to bloom, but not in March!

Already by March 10 they were abundant on the savanna hillside below the former friary.

Swamp buttercups also were earlier than in past years.

I am having to brush off my identification skills earlier than expected.

Today’s final species is a new one for the preserve list, a product of my altering survey routes from past routines.

The hairy bitter cress is a weedy plant, nothing spectacular, but any new species is stimulating.

Next week I’ll provide the statistics quantifying this year’s difference from the previous three.

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