Dutchman's Breeches and Squirrel Corn

This spring I went to where I had found a hillside of wildflowers in Griffy Park, and my timing was perfect, they were in full bloom last week. I thought I had found thousands of Dutchman’s Breeches, but when I started looking at my pictures, something was wrong, there were two distinct types of flower, what was this. The answer was easily found in looking through the new Flower Finder for Indiana Spring Wildflowers just released by Kay Yatskievych of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

There were a couple of Dutchman’s Breeches, Dicentra cucullaria, in the mix, but the vast majority of plants were its cousin Squirrelcorn, Dicentra canadensis. As the latin name implies, they are a 2 part flower, but both the flower and the foliage are different several respects.

From Southern Indiana Wildflowers
From Southern Indiana Wildflowers
From Southern Indiana Wildflowers

Bee Petting, 2009

I began the relaxing hobby of bee petting couple of years ago, after reading about the idea in one of Tom Brown, Jr.’s books. (This is not for you who allergic to bees, you know who you are.)

It helps to have love in your heart for the bees, they are very cute, and important in the web of life. They act a bit like cats, standoffish and cool, obviously they have better things to do than mess with humans. But they will allow you to pet them, if they have time!

I’ve been petting bumble bees at Sprouts Garden in the hyssop and mint patch. These are big ones with lots of fuzzy hair, black bodies with a yellow spot on the back that is widely variable in size, shape and intensity of color. They flit from flower to flower, grasping the plant with with there four back legs. Once settled, they extend their probiscus into the tiny flowers. Then they use their smaller front legs to pull the flower up over their heads so they can reach the nectar at the bottom, it is quite amusing to watch.

Most of them are predominantly black, but there are some like this one below, who are mostly yellow. Some have all black thoraxes, others are striped as below. Some are big, some little, and all are busy (as a bee).

Yellow head bumble bee on anise hyssop
Yellow head bumble bee on anise hyssop

These are such focused little creatures! I sometimes accidentally push them off route while trying to pet them. They make an extra buzzing sound, then rush off to the next flower. They are not easily diverted from their tasks, even by a giant trying to stroke their fuzzy little backs. Stinging me is the last thing on their tiny minds, of this I am sure.

Valley of the Bluebells

On Saturday, Jojo and I went for a bike ride east of Bloomington, and while hiking in the Yellowwood forest found the motherload of bluebells (Mertensia virginica). Two weeks before we had ridden to Woodall Road where we had found them last year, but no luck, and a lot of hill climbing resulted. But this cool clear spring day we encountered a side valley that eventually rises to Scarce o’ Fat ridge.

All along the forested valley floor the bluebells were only plants visible, with an occasional buckeye sprout rising above the carpet of blue flowers and magenta buds. There was a dry branch running through the middle, and we walked up it a few hundred yards and sat on a log to admire the etheric glow of the bluebells. Right next to us I discovered a rare plant which did not turn blue once it flowered. (The bluebell buds are magenta when they appear, then as the flowers grow out of the buds, they morph to the a vibrant deep blue.) The pink bluebell seemed to be pretty rare, of the tens of thousands of flowers in the valley we saw only 2 pinks, and they were close together.

I’ve heard from others that this has been a good year for bluebells, they certainly did like this spring. They are perennials, but also spread from seed that is not easily dispersed. This means that they take over whole areas of a forested flood plain; here they were even beginning to climb the hillside, not their normal habitat.

We walked up the dry branch into the Valley of the Bluebells | Flowers 2009
Bluebells morph from Magenta to Blue | Flowers 2009
Rare pink Virginia Bluebell | Flowers 2009
I’ve always found some phlox growing with a colony of bluebells | Flowers 2009