Well, it was a damp and chilly morning on Saturday for the William & Mary Wildflower Refuge walk. Only Dorothy Whitfield showed up for this one. The refuge is along a ravine just below Crim Dell. Ralph and Carolyn Will have placed a lot of resuced plants here and have been working diligently to get rid of invasive plants like English Ivy and Lesser Celadine.
Even though it was early in the year, there were several plants in bloom. I was particularly excited to see Leatherwood (Dirca Palustris), which I had never seen before, in bloom. It get its name from its extremely flexible branches, which you can practically tie in a knot. Native Americans used to tear the branches into fibrous strips that they would use for bowstrings, baskets, and thongs (the website I looked at didn't say what kind of thongs...). The flowers weren't super showy but then had a nice lemon yellow color to them.
The refuge also has lots of another yellow bloomer, Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), whose yellow flower buds are just starting to open. Spicebush are hosts for the Spicebush Swallowtail and the Promethea Silkmoth.
Below the observation deck at the top of the refuge we came across a patch of Puttyroot and Cranefly orchid. I've yet to see either in bloom but the Puttyroot has such handsome leaves, that's reason enough to search them out.
A bit further down the hill we uncovered a small clump of Round-leaved Hepatica (Hepatica americana, a.k.a. Hepatica nobilis, a.k.a. Anemone americana). It had a few little pale blue flowers open. With a day or two of sunshine it should look pretty nice.
Just below the Hepatica were several clumps of the 2009 wildflower of the year, Skunk Cabbage. I tore a piece of one of the emerging leaves and sure enough, skunk smell.
Further up from the Skunk Cabbage was a large hillside full of bloodroot flowers.
A few things we saw got me looking forward to the next couple of weeks. Bluebell and Columbine leaves were up and Red Buckeye, Redbud, Golden Ragwort all had flowerbuds just waiting to burst open.
You can see all the pictures from the walk here.