Friday, May 3, 2013
Spring Beauty Moved
As a child, I remember my maternal grandmother using the words spring beauties to refer to flowers in her garden. Violets were likely the actual flowers in her garden since I do not remember her having plants this small. Her words remain in my memory so spring beauties had to be placed in my garden.
There are many hurdles to clear to introduce these beautiful but temperamental flowers to cultivation. Growth begins in a pea sized tuber that can lie a fair distance from the above ground leaves. A tender stem winds its way through the woven tangle that is wild soil. Patience, persistence and luck are required to collect a complete plant. Sadly wilted leaves persist for days after the plant is moved. Three years passed between the collecting and the first flowers.
Spring beauty, Claytonia Virginica, flowers close every night and on cloudy days. Trying for a photograph of a white flower in full sun brings mostly disappointment. The pink anthers and purple veins look much more impressive to the eye. We took a walk to the back woods trying for really good pictures.
Several references describe spring beauty tubers as a food source for Native Americans and early European colonists. Given the small size of an individual tuber and the search necessary to find them makes it hard to believe that they contributed much at meal time. Few other choices are available in the early spring and that may have made the search worthwhile. Also, huge patches of spring beauties must have existed in those earlier days.
Our walk along the margins of the forest in search of these special flowers gave us wet feet. Spring beauties grow in and alongside of the running water that seeps from the base of the ridge. We have had no rainfall for many days so water is carried to our modest patch of captive flowers. They remain alive but we really want them to form a wild like sizable patch in our shade garden.