Tag Archive 'wild leeks'

Apr 26 2018

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The First Green

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You know it’s spring when you come across a brilliant green patch of wild leeks growing in the woods. It’s the first real green of the season, emerging rather suddenly from the thick brown duff covering the forest floor. Technically speaking, moss is well ahead of it, coming back to life long before the snow melts away, and grass starts greening in the open places as soon as early April snow turns to rain. But nothing says welcome to spring like a patch of wild leeks. One bite of their pungent, oniony leaves and there’s no doubt in my mind, anyhow, that winter is history.

I know, I know – it has been a long, cold April this year with more than the usual ration of springtime snow here in the Northeast. And the cloud cover has been relentless at times. All the same, the spring season is well underway. The songbirds are back, peepers are making quite a racket at dusk in the nearby ephemeral pools, and coltsfoot is already blooming in the roadside ditches. Catkins are unfurling from the tips of tree branches. Those who know me well would hardly call me an optimist, but this time of year I see nothing in nature except good omens. And the appearance of wild leeks is one of them.

False hellebore also grows thick and bright green in wet spots in the woods, and is sometimes confused with wild leeks. It has no oniony taste, though – that’s the dead giveaway. Good thing. False Hellebore is poisonous. I take a small bite whenever I’m in doubt.

The mottled leaves of trout lilies are also coming up, along with a host of other wildflowers that will soon be strutting their stuff. I haven’t found any round-lobed hepatica in bloom yet, but I’m sure I will in the days ahead. Wild leeks are not alone on the forest floor. They’re just the most obvious.

Most people long for sunny, t-shirt days, but let the change come slowly, I say. Let spring unfold as slowly as possible so that we can enjoy every little bit of it. Unfortunately, that’s not how things usually go in this part of the world. A few warm days followed by a couple days of rain and suddenly we’ll be in the thick of it. There are worse fates, I suppose.

 

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Apr 18 2013

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Vernal Pools

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frogsYesterday I went into the woods searching for the sights and sounds of spring. I wasn’t disappointed. Despite naked trees and the conspicuous absence of green, woodpeckers telegraphed their desires, ruffed grouse drummed, and a chorus of spring peepers announced the beginning of the season.

I went searching for vernal pools and found them in likely places – slight depressions in the forest floor where snowmelt collects this time of year, where small colonies of frogs magically appear to croak away any remnant of winter.

I knelt down next to a pool oblivious to the cool dampness still in the earth, and watched the frogs swim about. The water’s surface rippled every time the frogs sprang forth. They croaked alarm to each other regarding my presence then went about their amphibious business unperturbed. I wasn’t a threat as long as I didn’t move.

A bit later, on a south-facing slope soaking up the sun, I found a patch of wild leeks flaunting their verdure. I tore off the tip of one and chewed it. The pungent flavor was both familiar and heartwarming. Then I spotted them: small patches of round-lobed hepatica in bloom among the leeks. Their delicate petals burst forth atop fuzzy stems curling away from the earth. The first wildflower of the year was emerging so early I could hardly believe it.

I left the woods feeling a little giddy. I get that way every time the wild takes me by surprise. I went searching for spring and found more than I could have hoped for. After all these years, you’d think I would have it figured out by now. But there’s something about the natural world that’s eternally new, especially on days like these.

 

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