By Mathew McDowell, Wildflower Island Curator
We’re a week into April, and the plants of Wildflower Island are waking up for the growing season. Species flowering on the Island now include:
- Acer rubrum, Red Maple
- Betula nigra, Black Birch, male blooms fading
- Symplocarpus foetidus, Skunk Cabbage, blooms fading
- Alnus incana, Speckled Alder
- Salix discolor, Pussy Willow
- Erythronium americanum, Trout Lily
- Lindera benzoin, Spicebush
- Corylus americana, American Hazelnut
- Sanguinaria canadensis, Bloodroot
- Thalictrum thalictroides, Rue-anemone
- Epigaea repens, Trailing Arbutus
For these first few weeks, late winter bloomers and the earliest spring flowers coincide. Some like the birch, alder, and hazelnut are wind-pollinated. Others with more showy flowers are insect-pollinated, depending on the earliest flies and bees that emerge from hibernation. All take advantage of the bright, open conditions offered prior to leaf-out.
More and more animal-pollinated plants will emerge and flower soon, rushing to fill the few weeks before the canopy closes and they must bide their time again for better access to sunlight. Called “spring ephemerals,” these small wildflowers exist in the shade of the forest by timing their activity around when the trees are breaking dormancy. Many that used to be abundant in Westchester have been devastated by invasive species, deer overpopulation, and other forms of environmental disturbance. The relatively sheltered conditions of Wildflower Island allow for populations of spring ephemerals to continue to thrive, making it one of the best places in Westchester to see these seasonal harbingers.
Wildflower Island tours begin April 29th.