This is my favorite time of year when finally I start seeing new life pop up in the woods, along the streams, across the fields. This week, as I took a walk with teachers whose students were competing in one of Missouri’s regional Envirothon contests, I saw this year’s first Dutchman’s breeches in bloom. (The Envirothon is a contest for high school students in the United States and Canada that covers their knowledge of forestry, wildlife, soils and water issues. The teachers took a nature tour while their students competed.)
But back to the wildflowers… As we strolled along a woods trail near a creek, I spotted three of the classic early flowers. (I say classic because I actually remember their names, unlike some of the later bloomers.) It’s later than usual for some of these flowers to appear. The spring beauty usually shows up by middle March in central Missouri. Bloodroot is an interesting flower in that its petals open and close each day. I did a time-lapse scene of a one doing that in “Blooming Secretes,” a movie I made 22 years ago for the Missouri Conservation Department. The third white flower of early spring woods is Dutchman’s breeches, whose flowers look like the short pants of traditional Dutch clothes. When I made the film on wildflowers, the thing that most amazed me was what I started seeing when I paused to really look closely at a flower. It might be a small, shiny, green bee gathering pollen or a moth hidden under a petal in the rain or a crab spider waiting for prey. So while the flowers themselves are fun to see, if you look a bit more closely or pause just a little longer, an expanded world of spring life appears.