Through the Lens: Welcome Back Mother Nature
We are in that time of the year when Mother Nature has awakened from the long winter. She greets us each day with new colors for the warm season to come. I have always enjoyed this time of year, as trees and woodlands that have been barren of color, return with greens, yellows and all the colors that nature has to offer. Some trees have not yet taken on that dark green color that helps them to absorb the rays of the sun to help them grow and flourish for one more summer season. The fresh green is bright and warm as the sun passes through the leaves. Along the creeks and small streams the trees seem to be eager to be first to return with their new foliage. Perhaps the water that flows nearby helps to warm their roots and awaken them a little earlier than the rest.
Along the roads, we begin to see color as spring flowers bloom under the canopy of trees. The deep under growth of weeds will soon hide shadowed places now abundant with spring flowers. Flowers of the West Virginia woodlands come in almost every color and variety that can be found in the hills and valleys of Appalachia. They are now awakened by the longer days and spring rains.
Nature’s wild flowers have waited a whole year to once again bloom for a few weeks in hopes a bee or butterfly will visit them to help continue the species of flowers. My fruit trees this year will in all likelihood be abundant with fruit. The heavy rains that often wash away their pollen or a heavy frost that kills their blooms has so far not visited my trees. Hopefully the sound of bees in the blooms is a sign that this will be a good season for fruit. For those who raise orchards of fruit trees across our state, there is hope of a good harvest.
Along the old road that passes through the woods near my home, grow blue, white and yellow Johnny Jump-Ups. The scientific community places these flowers in the group called Viola. I felt special to have growing on our farm several different varieties of these small flowers. I was somewhat disappointed to find out that around the world over four hundred different varieties of viola can be found. But, I still believe the variety found in our state are among the prettiest, especially the ones with the delicate yellow faces. They seem to bloom only in the spring when the weather is cooler. As the heat of summer comes the weeds grow tall and they disappear for another season.
In the deep hollows, the white flowers of the Trilliums grow along the steep hillside. Their single white flower and distinctive shaped leaves are hard to miss in the woods. Alongside them in cool shadowed places is the yellow of a flower I call Deer’s Tongue. It appears where rays of sunlight filter through the trees and finds its way to the cool ground below. Its leaves resemble the long tongue of a deer. When I researched the yellow flower on the internet I was amazed to find a large number of plants that shares that name.
Hidden alongside the Trillium and Deer’s Tongue is another seldom seen flower. Against the green growth the Indian Paint Brush is hard for many to see. The dark red color seems to be absorbed by the green of the woods. If this flower is hard for you to find it maybe that you are a little bit color blind. If my wife points them out I can see them growing on the hillsides.
At this time of year, an unusual flower can also be found. It is called Jack in the Pulpit. This unique flower is found in the deepest woods where sunlight is tinted green from new leaves overhead. This rare flower with its unusual shape makes it a great find when walking in the woods. It is said, if you very carefully raise the cap of the flower you may reveal a Woods Fairy sleeping within. She will wait for the soft light of day to return, before she begins her visit to the flowers of the deep woods.
One of the most visible flowers to be seen is the pale blue Sweet William. If you have ever smelled one of these delicate flowers you understand how they came to have their name. Native Americans believed if a young man finds these beautiful flowers and gives them to the girl he is sweet on, she may become the love of his life. I can attest to the fact any time you give your favorite girl flowers it will bring good things into both of your lives.
Hillsides and woods have several varieties of flowering trees at this time of year. There is one tree that I always enjoy seeing its flowering colors, the Dogwood. Its flowers range from soft pinks to pure white. Some of their flowers are small and delicate. While others can be large and bold. I am unsure how many varieties can found in the woodlands, but each has its own color and diverse size. I remember as a child learning that the Dogwood was once a great and mighty tree valued for its fine grain wood and large size. The Romains prized the wood for making crosses throughout their empire. The once tall majestic tree never grew as tall and straight as it once had after their rule.
One last flower spring brings in great abundance is the Dandelion. For many people the yellow flower that blooms in our yards and fields is considered a pest. There are also those that gather the delicate leaves of the plant when young to make natural green salad. The bloom can also be picked and made into a spring wine that has a flavor unlike anything else you have tasted. But, the best thing about a Dandelion is the ball of seeds that appears after it has bloomed. I loved to pick the stem and blow the seeds and watch them float away on the wind. Beware your neighbors may not like the wind coming into their yard.
Spring is time of renewal and beginnings. A time to appreciate the world around us. A time to enjoy the simple pleasure of blowing the seeds from a dandelion and watching them float on the wind. Spring has returned once again and we welcome it Through the Lens.