Monday, April 23, 2007


Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana)

Oh joy, my favorite springtime wildflowers were indeed blooming in their woodland grove yesterday, almost a mile from the front gate of the Two Hundred Acre Wood. As tiny as they were, one could see them from quite a distance because of their almost neon lavender (sometimes snowy white or vivid pink ) sepals and their lavishly fringed hearts.

These are Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana) although Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba) also grows on our place in the Lanark Highlands. It is always difficult to figure out which hepatica are round lobed and which are sharp lobed — the blooms lift their heads out of deep drifts of last autumn's leaves accumulating in the nooks and crannies of old limestone rock faces, and the leaves are seldom visible at this time of year when riotous flowering is the order of the day. Over the last few years, I have spent a fair amount of time on hands and knees peering into piles of dead leaves in April and trying to figure which of the hepaticas I was looking at. Perhaps small things amuse small minds?

Our first woodland bloomers also go by the names of squirrel cup, snow trillium, mayflower, blue anemone, kidneywort, liver-leaf and liverwort — their triple lobed (round or pointed) dark green leathery leaves resemble human livers or kidneys. What appear to be the petals of this delicately glowing wildflower are actually conjoined sepals and not petals at all.

There is some dissension in the world of botany about where the hepaticas actually belong. They are usually considered to be spritely members of their own genus hepatica, but there are still a few botanists out there who class them as genus anemone instead — Lawrence Newcomb and John Eastman classify the hepaticas as being members in good standing of genus hepatica, while Audubon prefers to treat them as anemone. The springtime blooms do resemble those of the northern Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) and the much bigger Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis) which flowers here several weeks later. For practical purposes, hepaticas and anemones share a common phylum, class, order and family, but there seems to be a general parting of the ways when it comes down to genus, with one group opting for genus hepatica and the other plumping for genus anemone.

Yesterday, I really didn't care about phylum, class, order, family or genus — I was just happy to see hepaticas in bloom and know that greening has begun in my native place.


Marcie said...

Cate, The hepatica are so beautiful! I love the juxtaposition of spring blooms against brown autumn leaves.

Lil said...

That's right Cate - screw all of our adult cares and inhale Mother Earth's rebirth!!

Oh, and for a moment there, I thought the flowers were FAKE - they look so full and bright for northern blooms! Spring is so freaking inspiring to shoot out of our homes and turn our heads towards the sun...

Thank you SO much for this!


Andromeda Jazmon said...

Oh so beautiful!