As the air and soil warm, wildflowers begin to emerge from under the dead brown leaves. Depending on temperature, flowers may linger for weeks or fade in just a few days. Many are small and delicate. Others are sturdy and flower in bold colors.
The timing of spring in the forest is very dependent on temperature and sunlight. Moisture plays a big role as well. Whether, and when, a flower emerges in a particular place, how big it is and how bright its flower will vary from season to season and place to place.
Many of our earliest wildflowers will be found in rich moist woods. They may be found near streams and rivers but will also occur in basins on the tops of the ridges. Some will be restricted to wet, marshy areas.
Flowering shrubs, such as the pink azalea, which is in bloom now, and mountain laurel, which has advanced its buds, abound on rocky wooded slopes.
The leaves of pink lady slippers are beginning to emerge on the slopes and ridges.
With our cool weather, the flowering dogwoods, which prefer rich moist woods, are holding on to their blossoms.
Soon-to-flower mayflowers are carpeting moist woods and edges, and Virginia bluebells may still be making a nice show along the C&O Canal towpath.
Take a walk in the woods soon. Look at the flowers. Enjoy the new foliage. Listen to the birds.
As it should be with every walk with nature, leave behind only your footsteps and take away only your memories.
Celeste Maiorana is a member of the Washington County Forest Conservancy District Board, which promotes forest conservation in Washington County. Please visit online at http://www.wcfb.sailorsite.net
o For public woodlands, refer to the Parks page on the Forestry Board's Web site, http://www.wcfb.sailorsite.net
o For a non-exhaustive sample of woodland flowers, check out the Web site's wildflower slideshow.