So my recent Native Plant Society to Sandy Bottom didn't turn out all that well. I had hoped to see sweetleaf, a small native tree that blooms in early spring before the leaves emerge. Unfortunately the flowers on all the trees had fallen off and the trees were starting to leaf out (above). I had based the date of the field trip on some trees I saw blooming last year in New Kent County, about 30 miles north. But the difference in latitude, combined with some unusually warm weather, resulted in major field trip fail. Here's the flower I had expected to see:It would have been especially nice because there's a spot in the park where sweetleaf grows next to sassafras, another early bloomer. It should make for a nice combination. I guess I'll try again next year.
But that wasn't the only problem with the field trip. Not only was there no sweetleaf in bloom, there hardly anything else. Where was the golden ragwort and Jack-in-the-pulpit? I didn't even see any bluets...and they're everywhere! Other than trees and wax myrtle, it was surprisingly barren compared to the field trip there last fall. I guess it was good that only 1 person showed up...fewer people to be disappointed. Oh, and did I mention I dropped my new lens? Nothing seemed to be working out.
There were a few things to see, like a nice specimen of Carolina jessamine in the parking lot.
And the black cherries were just starting to open (not too exciting).Along the edge of one of the lakes, there were loads of willow in bloom. I'm never tried keying out a willow, so I not sure what species this is. There are several species that grow in the area, some native, some not. I'm guessing it was black willow. I might have been able to figure it out for sure what it was if I hadn't left all my plant guidebooks at home on my kitchen counter.
Willows, by the way, are the original source of aspirin. They naturally produce salicylic acid in their leaves and bark and it's use for pain relief goes at least as far back as Hippocrates, who listed it as one of his treatments for headaches.
Another not particularly pretty bloomer was wax myrtle. I think these are male flowers pictured below. Though some people consider this kind of a scraggly shrub, it can look great trimmed as a hedge.
Walking further into the park, I did see a lot of herbaceous plants coming up, so there may be more interesting things blooming later in the year. I'm sure I'll make a return trip in a month or two to see what's popping up. You can see all my photos from the field trip here.