It was exciting for me and the busy bee to find some milkweed blossoms the deer haven’t eaten yet! The milkweed pollen our bee is collecting looks like butter! I wonder what it tastes like. We ate young green milkweed pods once over 40 years ago. As I recall, you need to boil them twice, changing the water. Warning: Please Google before you try them. They tasted like string beans.
I tried eating the leaves of Wild Lettuce and wondered why it was named wild lettuce since it didn’t taste like anything you’d want to include in a salad. But because it is pretty easy to recognize, I thought I’d share a photo or two. Then I Googled it. Now I know why Wild Lettuce is called “wild”! Another name for it is Opium Lettuce! Since you’re supposed to swear you are over 18 to get necessary details, I will leave further research to you other than to say I learned that some Indians use the herb to enhance the vividness of dreams. They believe that induced dream states provide more information about reality than the conscious waking state.
It’s a tall, sturdy plant with cool seeds. Both the flowers and the seeds look like they belong on a dandelion. So they must be related.
Much to my surprise I found my first fresh puffball of 2017 on 4/7. They are called puffballs because their dust-like spores create a brown cloud when the mature mushroom bursts. That makes it fun to kick them. The biggest puffballs contain 7 trillion spores! Unlike other mushrooms, the spores are produced internally. The mushrooms are delicious before the spores form. When people collect puffballs, they cut them in half to check the interior. If the flesh is all white and free of spores, it can be eaten raw or sliced and cooked in butter.
In Tibet puffballs were traditionally used to make ink by burning them, adding water and glue to the ash and then pressing out the excess water.
One of the most beautiful flowering trees, the Eastern Redbud, is in bloom now. I think it should be called the pinkbud or pinkish-purplebud. Some people call it the Judas-tree. Even though it is called the ‘Eastern’ redbud, it is the state tree of Oklahoma. It’s lovely pea-like blossoms grow in clusters along the branches. Redbud flowers and the young bean-like seed pods (legumes) are edible. I didn’t know that! I’ll have to try them! (I did try the buds. They were ehhh, not bad, just ehhh.)
Notice how the flowers grow right from the branch.
They may be called Common Blue Violets but the sight of each violet opening in my yard is exceptional and exciting. The word ‘violet’ comes from the Latin name ‘Viola’, my beloved granddaughter’s name! Violets are native to just about everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere where you would want to live, plus Hawaii, Australia and the Andes in South America. Those sound like fun places to live too. There are 400-500 species of Violets. When I was about 8 years old, I took a shortcut through a neighbor’s backyard to get to my piano teacher’s house. There were WHITE violets growing in the neighbor’s yard. The violets in our yard were all purple. So I took a fork and a paper cup along with my piano book the next week and, without asking permission, I dug up a white violet and transplanted it to my backyard. Thus began my life of crime and fascination with native plants.
Guess what I just found in the neighbor’s yard! Hmmm…
Henbit is an early spring-blooming edible member of the mint family. Members of the mint family have square stems. (Feel them!) The flowers look like fairy orchids. Hens love them. They also provide urgently needed nectar and pollen to early arriving hummingbirds and honeybees. I will get a better photo. They often grow near chickweed and are regularly confused with dead-nettles.
Dead-nettles are also members of the mint family. Their blossoms peak out from under fuzzy, edible leaves. The leaves turn reddish-purple as the season progresses. It’s Greek name, Lamium purpureum, means “the purple monster’. Sometimes they cover a plowed field, turning it completely purple. Watch along the road as you drive through farmland.
No, it’s not a Johnny-Jump-Up! Too early for violets here but not too early for Creeping Charlie. Often called ground-ivy because of the way it covers the ground, this edible member of the mint family has many names: Creeping Charlie, gill-over-the-ground, alehoof, tunhoof, cat’s foot, field balm and run-away-robin. It was among the first herb and edible plants brought to North America by early settlers.
Pussy willows are my weakness so I had to start my Spring Flower Show of Southern MD with them! These were cut from a bush I am trying hard to protect from local beavers.
Then come the camellias. These are the only two varieties that have survived a string of harsh winters and they only bloom if the winter is mild. One cold snap at the wrong moment and all the buds freeze, leaving us to dream about what could have been if only…
Cora’s winter jasmine are a reliable special treat. Somehow they always bloom, no matter what the weather does.
Not many people are happy to see swamp maples in full bloom. It means tree allergy season has arrived. But they are amazingly beautiful, sparkling gold against red.
And for all you wild edibles lovers, the tiny white blossoms covering the ground are a reminder to collect and enjoy winter cress right now, before it goes to seed.
Last but not least is a cabbage left over from the Winter Flower Show! Who could resist that color?! Please sign up for my blog so you don’t miss a day!