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A Beauty of Spring

A Walk in the Woods

 

Randi de Santa Anna

Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon Spp.)

Springbeauty started blooming in the grasslands of the Seeley Swan Valley in early April and its bloom will gradually work its way up in elevation. It is in the Purslane Family (Portulacaceae). One of the coolest things about this tiny plant is its ability to move through its life cycle quickly and successfully.

In the fall, when the growing season is done, Springbeauty starts growing from its tiny bulb. Its sprout continues to grow during the winter to just below the soil surface. By doing this it is primed to emerge from the earth as soon as the snow starts melting.

When the tiny plant begins growing above ground it burns carbohydrates from its root, which build up heat in its hollow stem, which in turn melts the remaining snow around the growing plant. The stored heat in its "greenhouse" enables Springbeauty to photosynthesize, despite the cold air temperatures, allowing it to make an earlier appearance than most flowers.

Once the plant has completed its flower and seed cycle it continues storing up carbohydrates in its bulb so that come September, it can start its efficient life cycle once again.

Randi de Santa Anna

Springbeauty (Claytonia lanceolata)

Shooting Stars are in the Primrose Family (Primulaceae) and have begun to bloom in the lower elevations of the our valley. When shooting star's sturdy little leaves emerge they form rosettes that resemble a cluster of tiny tongues sticking out of the earth. 

Their pink flowers perk up our mostly drab, early spring landscape. As you can see in the photo, shooting star petals are bent away from the stamens that hold the pollen. Because of their "reflexed" petals, visiting insects don't automatically bump into the pollen like they do in most flowers whose petals wrap around the stamens. So in order for the flower to be pollinated, insects landing on shooting star flowers must vibrate their wings really hard to shake the pollen onto their bodies, which they then carry to a neighboring shooting star flower, completing pollination. 

Find out more at www.ihiketowrite.com and http://www.fourseasonforays.com

 

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