Outdoors: The flowers that bloom in the spring

Jun 29, 2020

Erythronium americanum, or yellow trout lily
Credit CC BY-SA 4.0

Have you ever noticed how often singers sing about nature?

Take Gilbert and Sullivan.  Librettist Sir William Schwenk Gilbert was remarkably knowledgeable in matters "vegetable, animal and mineral."

For example, in "The Mikado," Nanki Poo and Koko, addressing the shade intolerance of woodland wildflowers, sing,  “The flowers that bloom in the spring / tra la / breathe promise of merry sunshine.”

Spring wildflowers seem  to appear overnight, but actually, the plants - their buds, their leaves, their abbreviated stems - were formed during the previous growing season. Throughout the long winter, they remained hidden beneath the snow.

With the warmth and moisture of spring, the pre-formed plants expand, using the food stored in underground stems and bulbs. 

Rapid growth is a survival necessity of the flowers that bloom in the spring. They have a narrow time winter in which to bloom, be pollinated and set seeds. Their leaves must also gather enough energy from the Sun for next year’s growth - all before the tree leaves form their canopy of shade.

The flowers of spring are finished before the summer of roses and wine.

Once we enter an Interlochen summer, very few flowers bloom in the shade of the oaks and stately pines. Now, the merry sunshine brings us Flos Campi: the flowers of the field.