Sunday, March 18, 2012

Metro Wildflowers

Amazed Ent in Cherokee Park
Louisville's Metro Parks system operates five different parks designed by Frederick Law Olmstead - the man who designed Central Park in New York City, among others. My in-law's house had Cherokee Park in the back yard, yet I rarely used it. To me, Cherokee Park was a place my father-in-law confidently drove through to go anywhere else in town. I, on the other hand, became lost any time I tried to drive in it at all. We used to ride horses through the bridle trails in the park, hitch up in the back yard and go in the house for breakfast. That part I enjoyed immensely, but again, my father-in-law was leading the way.

Let's enjoy the sunny hillside
People still love Cherokee Park, and a warm sunny Sunday attracted large crowds of walkers, bikers, children and dogs, but most of them stuck to the roads and sidewalks. Dick and I, on the other hand, discovered some trails through the woods along a small stream leading to Beargrass Creek where we searched for wildflowers, since a friend said he'd seen them in this area last year. I was amazed, since I never knew there were foot paths in Cherokee Park at all. All those people had lots of fun, but they didn't know what they were missing!
Dutchman's Breeches
At first, we saw only mown grass, but down in the stream valley, the flowers popped up, including everything we normally would not expect to see for several weeks yet. When you see the first one, it doesn't take long until you notice that species everywhere you look. Spring beauty and toothwort were the most abundant at first, followed by lovely little Dutchman's breeches.

Yellow Trout lily
Both yellow and beaked trout lily peeped through the leaf litter (but no white ones- we looked)...
Wood Poppy
...with only a few examples of wood poppy...

Fig Buttercup
...while fig buttercup turned entire meadows bright yellow.

So sad, we said to each other. It looks like we've missed the bloodroot since the weather has been so warm. They must be finished by now. Then we followed the trail up along a limestone bluff, and bloodroot were everywhere! It was absolutely wonderful!
False Rue Anemone
Sessile Trillium
On another slope, the trilliums grew in profusion, while another sported waving groups of false rue anemone. Last year I missed seeing the twin leaf altogether since they bloom for such a short time, but we found some today. Even the bluebells, which I would not expect to see for another month, were in bloom here and there.
Mutant Trillium?
As we headed back towards the car, however, we spotted the strangest flower I've ever seen. It appeared to be a trillium with at least 12 leaves when there should only be three! Several examples of this grew in the same area. Is it some genetic mutation? Some cultivar designed by a mad botanist and planted in the park? Or could it be some other flower altogether that I've never seen before? Stay tuned as I send this photo so some of my wildflower expert friends.

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