Saturday, March 24

A Quick Trip to the Black Swamp

I usually try to visit my parents in Northwest Ohio as April turns to May, because seeing the large-flowered trillium (trillium grandiflorum, below) and other spring wildflowers in bloom reminds me of my childhood. I won't be able to make my usual trip this spring, as I am working part-time at a local garden center to fund a few house projects... so I am indulging myself in a virtual trip here, courtesy of pictures I took in the spring of 2005.

My brothers and I spent lots of time tromping through the woods behind our house. The woods consisted of just a few acres of trees--saved mostly to serve as a windblock for the farmland behind it--but it held all of the mystique of a vast forest for us as children. We explored rotting logs, searched for frogs in the vernal pools and picked flowers for Mom. Woodland phlox (phlox divaricata) was a sweet-scented favorite. Here is a shot of it surrounded by young ferns:

I cringe a little to realize that some endangered plants like trillium were always part of our "bouquets," but since the forest floor is covered with them now we must not have done too much damage after all.

The trees in the woods are mostly tall and mature, but there are occasionally young, leggy understory shrubs and trees as well. Thanks to the anonymous emailer who helped me to identify the flowers on the understory beauty below as those of the common pawpaw (asiminia trilobia.) I have long wanted to try the supposedly custard-like fruits of this tree, so I wish I had known to go back and search for it later in the season!

I appreciate that certain woodland plants look particularly garden-worthy, like the Jacob's ladder (polemonium reptans) below, surrounded by ferns and toad trillium (trillium sessile--lower left.) Carpets of common blue violets form drifts of groundcover as well.

Other areas look decidedly wild in an appealing way. For example, this melange of ferns, woodland phlox, large-flowered trillium and Jacob's ladder, all sandwiched between clumps of huge Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) leaves:

I feel very fortunate to have access to traditional spring garden flowers now, and would not be without tulips, crocus, brunnera, and the like. But to me the spring wildflowers of the Ohio woodland will always be the harbinger of the season... the flowers that finally mean I can go barefoot for a good long while, and summer is right around the corner. I am looking forward to seeing them again in person, next year.

25 comments:

Pam/Digging said...

I enjoyed your reminiscences. As children my sister and I roamed the piney woods around our home in semi-rural South Carolina. I have fond memories of catching tadpoles in creeks, picnicking on boulders in the woods, and generally being free and wild in the way children aren't allowed to be anymore.

MrBrownThumb said...

Any luck getting that purple flower IDed? If you find out please let me it looks like a flower I must have.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Pam, isn't that the truth... I don't even know if it was less dangerous back then, as my Xh was once the target of an attempted kidnapping as he walked home from school. I just think that the perception is that it's a scarier world now.

mrbrownthumb, an anonymous emailer directed me to a list of common Ohio trees, and by googling each one I figured out that those are the flowers of the common pawpaw. I edited my posting to reflect the ID... I really want to go back and sample the fruits later this year!

Ki said...

Nature is certainly a grand gardener. Loved the photos. I always wanted to grow a paw paw but as there are so many different varieties and some apparently are much better tasting than others I gave up trying to buy one especially when I learned it would take years for it to give fruit from the size of tree the nurseries would ship. You are very lucky to have a flowering one nearby. Let me know what you think of the fruit if you get a chance to try one.

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Thanks for sharing a lovely story about your childhood Kim and ditto pictures. I enjoyed both!

BTW I've linked with you, will you do the same?

K-Oh said...

Ah, this post reminded me of playing in the woods with my cousins when I was a kid. Indeed, how vast and magnificent such a small area seemed. We looked for frogs and collected berries-- and loved to convince ourselves that the random weird manmade object that turned up in the woods were left by fairies.

Annie in Austin said...

The Mayapples are the nostalgic plant for me, Kim. We kids found them a block away from home on a wooded lot with blue-eyed grass. The neighborhood kids just called it "the path".

Trilliums, too? You did spend your childhood in an enchanted woodland!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Annie in Austin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate said...

Your post brought back many memories for me ... walking through woodlands just like this. The trilliums especially made me smile.

Carol said...

Ah, back to your roots? I love the woodland flowers and can't believe how far along they are! Thanks for sharing this with us.

Kathy said...

A lot of the plants you show I would like to get established--or re-established--in our woodland. But we do have a lot of the one in the last photo, wild cranesbill.

Kelly said...

such lush photos! Makes me pine for my woodland childhood in MA. We picked Ladies Slippers and Princess Pine for our bouquets, having no idea of their endangered status as well. Pure magic.

Colleen said...

Thanks for sharing the Black Swamp with us. Seeing the photos now, I can easily see why you still identify with it. It's just beautiful! What a cool way to grow up :-)

meresy_g said...

Great post. We had woods behind our house as well, with a couple streams and a big creek. My childhood summers were spent down there endlessly building dams and forts and swinging on grape vines and just walking around. I do remember Mayapples and trout lillies, ferns and carpets of bluebells in the spring. My favorite was the Jack in the Pulpit, it seemed such a mysterious plant. I wish I had a moist wooded area in my yard to recreate that memory. And I wish I had pawpaws. I have some seeds from a fruit eaten a few years ago that I should plant. A delicious fruit and worth growing.

lisa said...

Love this post Kim! I can't wait for my woodland beauties to show themselves! Soon I think...it's supposed to be 70 degrees today!

The County Clerk said...

ahhhh... the gardens of youth

beautiful.

Entangled said...

Spring wildflowers seem to strike a chord with everybody, but I was noticing the wonderful fresh green foliage. I'm getting very anxious to see some new leaves. My dry northern Virginia woods produce a few mayapples and Solomon's seal, but I'm hoping for more wildflowers in central Virginia. I saw my first one there last weekend.

Christine said...

I had the same thing, growing up in Kentucky~ the woods would start blooming, and we would know the fun was coming!

Sandy said...

I feel the same way about wildflowers. Thanks for the lovely show.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

I am so loving the comments about everyone else's childhoods... thanks to you all for posting comments! :)

Carol, I'm afraid that I unintentionally misled you. It will be weeks before the woods behind my parents' house looks like this. These are pictures that I took there a couple of years ago, though.

pmo3ws said...

Kim your photos remind me of the woods my parents had while growing up. We had two huge boulders that marked a corner of the woods from our neighbors property. This corner had a creek running next to it (with sand!) My friends and I named this area "Lover's Lane". Boy, weren't we adventurous! Or more like it, dreaming! I think we were all of 9 or 10 years old. Gosh, those were the days... Thanks for an injoyable post tonight. I'll try and visit more often.

Rurality said...

Trilliums! My favorite! :)

About the pawpaws... I think that only certain ones set fruit. But I can't remember the rules about it.

Carol said...

Blackswamp Girl, I don't think you misled me as much as I skipped over the words and went straight for the pictures!

Kylee said...

Kim,

We just got back from a week in Florida, so I'm getting caught up with my blogging (trying to...) and reading the blogs I follow.

The trillium I confiscated from our nearby woods a few years ago are up and showing buds, and so are the Virginia Bluebells we got last spring along the river over by Ottawa (near your hometown!!). We found a HUGE drift of the bluebells behind the reservoir by Ottawa while we were geocaching two years ago, so we went back last year and got a few. They were just THICK back there. I wondered if they would return in our soil, as they were in that wonderful, lush, loose, black organic river bank stuff that I wish my entire garden was made of. But I noticed today that they are doing fine here!

This week, I'll go back in the woods near our house and see if there's anything in bloom. We have trillium, Dutchman's Breeches, Spring Beauty, Violets, Toad lilies and a couple of other things I can't remember right now. No Great White Trillium, though. Just the T. sessile.

Kerri said...

Thanks so much for this walk in the woods. My brother and I spent lots of early mornings walking in the woods when we were very young..those are some of my fondest memories.
I love our woods here on the farm, especially in the spring.
Loved seeing your wild flowers.
Sorry you didn't get to go home this year, but it's good that you can look at these pictures and reminisce.
I enjoyed seeing your plants emerging in the above post and your bright cheery tulip!
Happy spring!

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