14 April 2010

Early spring in the GTA

"The wonder is that we can see these trees, and not wonder more."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In corollary, every year while i anticipate and watch the arrival of spring's first plants, I wonder how I can perennially wonder so much.

Sightings Sunday and Monday April 11th and 12th:

In the woods and forested ravines:
  • carpets - not in bloom but leafed out: trout lily, wild leek, Virginia waterleaf
  • colonies - wild ginger and bloodroot in bloom, Mayapples leafing out
  • small clumps and scatterings - red trilliums in early bloom; squirrel corn (a Dicentra similar to Dutchmen's breeches) is leafed out looking like muted silvery highlights. Visible still leafing-out scatterings: false solomon's seal, red and white baneberry, downy yellow violet, big leaved asters and zig-zag goldenrod (those latter two won't even bloom until late summer, so i find it interesting to know they begin their leaves so early / come out to catch such early sunlight)
  • Red elderberry aka Red-berried elder Sambucus racemosa ssp. pubens (S. pubens) flowers just arriving.
What strikes me about the above assortment is how much they collectively resemble what i call my "tough guy" list: these are pretty much the same plants i recommend to new woodland and urban shade gardeners because they're so hard-core / reliable, even in new soils. They're also the same plants folks use not only to attempt to resist invasives (like DSV, garlic mustard), but to strategic replant in areas after invasive removal. Vive la RĂ©sistance! Tip for dry shade gardeners: I'm having good luck w/ our local bush honeysuckle Diervilla lonicera shrubs in dry clay next to a silver maple in part building shade that only gets some summer sun (i distinguish "building shade" from natural forest shade because it's neither dappled or sunny-before-the-trees-leaf-out).

Along the Lake Ontario shoreline and bluffs:

Buffalo berry (aka Soapberry) Shepherdia canadensis
on a coastal shoreline at the toe of Scarborough bluffs
. It's also a
suggested indigenous plant for a Green Roofs in Toronto (TRCA)
  • in bloom - buffalo berry/soapberry (note: in conventional horticulture, you'll see varieties of it called Russet Buffalo berry. BTW: Silver buffalo berry Shepherdia argentea is NOT native here), wild strawberry and pussy willows (yup, i just wrote "pussy willows" like i am 10 years old. i already own a well-field-worn copy of the ROM's Shrubs of Ontario, and as singularly indispensable and illuminating as it has been for my native shrub IDs, it's only given me less confidence in my ability to distinguish Salix species)
  • silverweed leafing out
  • horsetails sporing
  • exotic Coltstfoot in bloom. no surprise: it's always the 1st early flower i see along the lake. it guides into warmer shoreline pockets and exposed steep sloped till and clay niches. and always makes me wonder what used to fill those microclimates / niches?
Spring has decidedly arrived here in the early half of April this year. And so far the only visible frost damage I've come across was on the leaves of an exposed edge colony of wild ginger = I'm starting to *relax* about it all ;)

I also notice that the squirrels have officially naturalized Scillia into every garden bed i tend. i don't quite know what to make of that. i mean, i don't have native Spring Beauty plants to replace them with. Squirrels. those little tricksters. Gardening: to be at the mercy of the designs of squirrels. I trust the ants so much more than the squirrels...

In Eastern Ontario, The Marvelous in Nature was marking the 1st blooms too. Love her blog. And whenever she writes in plantae I want to have her babies. ;)

UPDATE Thursday April 15th:

Red maples have been in bloom for a few days, in yellow and red flowers (so are the invasive Norway maples: those greenish-yellow flowers on so many street trees right now. Soon they'll leaf out earlier and more densely than our native maples, their dense shade depriving our spring woodland ephemerals and understorey shrubs of sunlight).

Just noticed Poplar catkins in bloom this morning along the lakeshore: including cottonwoods, balsam poplars & trembling aspen.

  • Should also be able to find our locally uncommon Spicebush Lindera Benzoin in bloom right now in High Park. I plan on buying a few this year for my woodland garden beds.
  • In GTA naturalized areas such as the Brick Works, Fragrant Sumach Rhus aromatica shrubs and Redbud Cercis canadensis (small trees with pink-purple legume flowers) are both grown out of range (native to southern Ontario, but not to GTA), and should be in bloom soon if not already.


Anonymous said...

I am looking for elderberry flowers in the GTA. Do you know where these can be found?

native plant girl said...

sorry i missed this comment earlier!

they're kind of commom. but one place to be sure to to find them is in a new street side road planting on the west side of the bottom of Leslie street (just before the entrance to the spit). good luck.

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