First blooming

By Anna Lehr Mueser

I walk through the forest in the afternoon, listening to the rustle of a light breeze in the treetops and the distant hum of the city, reminding me that I am both immersed in the forest, and still in the city of Philadelphia.  At this time of year, I love to watch the woods transform from their winter quiet to the stampede of color and growth that is springtime.  This time last year, it seemed everything was blooming, but today, just the first green things, the first buds, the first butterflies, appear.  The long winter has given us this: a slow spring in which we can contemplate and appreciate each stage of transformation.

Today, I look at patches of skunk cabbage, leaves unfurling, alongside the streams.  I notice one patch of trillium, just forming buds; this native flower will bloom for a short time, red and white, before vanishing into the undergrowth.  I stop to look at a hillside of Virginia bluebells: purple leaves warm against last fall’s debris and blue buds about to open.

I find a few precious trout lily leaves.  Trout lily is a patient plant that can wait seven or eight years, each spring sending up just one freckled leaf, before blooming.

And my favorite: dozens of native bloodroot, appearing alongside the trail, gathering below a fallen log, climbing the hillside.  The sun, ducking in and out of clouds, lights the forest and these delicate white flowers glow.