Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nature Guide: Spring Bulbs

After this year's harsh winter, spring couldn't come soon enough. With warmer weather and longer days, the parks and trails in our area are coming back to life. Early-blooming bulbs are one of the first things to see. Our Nature Guide Jon Latimer points out a few species that are blossoming now.

"Among the earliest bulbs to bloom is Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa luciliae), a low-growing plant with grasslike leaves. It has attractive star-shaped flowers that are blue or violet-blue with white centers. They face upwards, unlike many other early spring bloomers. Flowers appear as the last snow melts and can survive for two weeks or more. Although these plants can be found growing wild in the woods, they are actually native to western Turkey. They weren't imported here until the end of the 19th century, but they have adapted well to our area.

"Another bulb that blooms early is the crocus. A member of the Iris family, there are more than 80 species of the genus Crocus. The most familiar is the Snow Crocus (Crocus chrysanthus), which will bloom while snow is still on the ground. Each plant produces up to four cup-shaped blossoms, which consist of six oval or pointed petals. Colors range from white and bright yellow to purple and blue. Some have touches of bronze or are bicolored, and flowers can last up to four weeks. The name crocus derives from the Latin word crocatus, meaning saffron yellow. The spice saffron is obtained from the stamens of Crocus sativus, a species native to Southwest Asia.

"Daffodils are another sure sign of spring. Their brightly colored blossoms have a corona in the center that looks like a trumpet surrounded by a star-shaped ring of petals. Daffodils belong to the genus Narcissus and are related to Jonquils and White Narcissi. There are at least 50 species of daffodils and more than 13,000 hybrids. Most wild daffodils are yellow, but cultivated varieties range from white-and-yellow, yellow-and-orange and white-and-orange to pink and lime green. Their ancestors come from the coastal areas of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The earliest recorded mention of daffodils dates back to around 300 BC."