Thursday, February 22, 2007


Here (above) is a bloodroot flower on its first day of blooming. The petals are still in the process of opening. The flower looks clean and fresh. The Latin name for this plant is Sanguinaria canadensis.
Here is a similar flower on the second or third day. This assumes there has been no rain, because rain will knock the petals off a bloodroot flower in bloom.
Going back in time, this is the bloodroot plant shortly after it emerges from the ground. Its leaf is wrapped tightly around the stem, forming a spear-like shape that helps it poke its way up and through. The bud is protected under the "blanket" of the leaf. The leaf will become more and more green with time and exposure to the sun, which triggers the development of chlorophyll. Notice the ant crawling on the right side. When this plant finally makes seeds, ants will return to carry the seeds back to their nests. Ands eat the fatty deposit on the surface of the seeds and serve as dispersers for the plant.
Little by little, the plant grows taller and taller, and the leaf slowly uncurls and loosens its grip on the stem. At this point, the plant is about 6 inches tall, though that can vary. Look closely at the veins of this leaf. The veins contain an orange colored sap that leaks out if the leaf is broken. The sap resembles blood, which helps explain how the plant got its name.
Here is another view of the leaf wrapped around the stem. This is from a plant that I rescued (road construction) and brought home in a pot before planting it under a tree. I like the way the light shows off the texture of the leaf. The leaf is somewhat fragile and feels rubbery to the touch.
I like the way this shot shows back-lighting if you peak through the opening in the curled leaf.
Here is another shot. I like to try side-lighting on something with as much texture as seen on a bloodroot leaf.
Here is a closer view of the above shot.
Finally, you can see how the plant got its name, from the "blood" color root. This is one of the plants that I rescued from road construction. I would NOT dig up a plant just to photograph it. I rescued this plant about a year ago, and its former location is now covered by 30 feet of dirt, waiting for an on-ramp to be built on top of it. All of these pictures were taken during the last week of March 2006. I have later shots of bloodroot, showing the full grown leaf and seed pod, but those are not yet ready for posting.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


This is toothwort, a member of the mustard family. Aside from skunk cabbage (below) and Hepatica, this is one of the first spring flowers to bloom in the forests of the eastern US. The flower bud, shown here, is about the size of an adult human canine tooth. The similarity in appearance helps explain how the plant got it's name. Of course, the leaves are also toothed.
Here is a closeup of another plant that was growing nearby the first. I usually avoid full sun when doing wildflower photography, but in this case, the sunlight helps show the hairy texture of the stem. I got these photos on March 17, 2006.
Here is a toothwort plant showing leaves without buds. When the leaves first sprout (from seed or the perennial root), they appear reddish, but turn green as chlorophyll develops in response to exposure to the sun.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Skunk Cabbage Flower

I found this skunk cabbage flower in Giles County, Virginia, during mid March, 2006. At first, it was difficult to see the patch of red "hoods" sticking up from the brush, but as I got closer, I suddenly saw dozens of these strange flowers in bloom. The red and yellow mottled pattern blends well with the dried up leaves from the previous year, making it hard to see them from a distance. The skunk cabbage patch was growing in "squishy" wet soil not too far from a stream. There were lots of branches of multiflora rose, which made moving around the area rather difficult.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Skunk Cabbage Closeup

Here is a shot of skunk cabbage flowers, very close up. I was able to peer inside the "hood" of the flower to get this shot. I used my 200 mm micro lens, which allowed me to focus closely and get a good clear image. This was taken in late March 2006 near the Blue Ridge Parkway in a rural area near Floyd, VA.