During our daily walks at the Nature Centre, we've discovered more spring ephemerals and some spectacular wildflowers. It seems the more you investigate the forest floor, the more life you find. We came across one lone red trillium (Trillium erectum) located at the base of a tree and then hidden under some ferns we found Toothwort (Dentari diphylla). The name has recently been changed to (Caramine diphylla). Other common names for this spring ephemeral are Broad-leaved toothwort, Two-leaved toothwort and crinkleroot.
The narrow leaves are sharply serrated or toothed, but the common name has more to do with the shape of the root. The roots are long, white and pointed similar to a tooth. Native Americans made a poultice of the roots to treat headaches and colds. The roots were also eaten like potatoes and the greens as vegetables.
Toothwort is found in undisturbed, moist woodlands. The flower has 4 separate, elongated bell-shaped white petals. Bees, butterflies and other pollinators are attracted to the cluster of flowers. The West Virginia White butterfly uses the plant to lay its eggs.
Toothwort found on the forest floor at Robert L. Bowles Nature Centre.
We then walked out of the forest and into one of the meadows and to our delight found Indian Paintbrush, (Castilleja coccinea) also known as Painted Cup, Painted Lady and Scarlet Painted Cup. The colours can range from ivory white, pink to all shades of red.
The coloured part of the plant is called bracts, giving the appearance of the plant being dipped into a can of paint. The flower is actually the small yellow-green structures emerging from the bracts (so the bracts are more colourful than the flower). Bracts are usually found above the leaves but below the flower. Other examples of flowers that have bracts are jack-in-the-pulpit, skunk cabbage, poinsettia, sunflowers and dogwood blossoms. Bracts are designed to protect the flower and bud from pests and harsh weather. The colour also attracts pollinators.
Indian Paintbrush is usually found on alvars. (More about alvars in a future blog). The area at the Nature Centre where this vibrant plant grows is grassy, moist and sandy; conditions this wildflower likes.
We'll be able to enjoy this wildflower from now until July.
Indian Paintbrush found in one of our grassy meadows.