Spring is always a busy time of year. For me, it is filled with many houses waiting to be cleaned up with plants trimmed back, leaves blown out and ponds cleaned. Even with all the pressures of landscape cleanups, I still find time in the evenings and weekends to spend time enjoying the spring. This is the best time of year, with many native trees opening in full flower, abuzz with bees and new butterflies. We so often get caught up in the rush of the times, that we miss out on all the wonders of spring.
I found myself in the unique position this spring of having to move an entire landscape worth of plants from my old place in Powhattan to my new home in Horton, KS. Everything had to be transplanted. Iris, hosta, native perennials, trees, my beloved doublefile viburnum and Korean spice viburnum, and berries. While transplanting them into my new yard, I noticed the delicate mosses growing in the beds. Of course, it is very difficult to really see the moss and lichens from a standing position, so I flopped down in the grass to observe them. What I saw was a real treat, a tiny little world under my feet, moving just as quickly as the world around me. Tiny spiders and ants foraged for food sources. The mosses became trees in their own world and the lichens were the carpet the insects ran over. One could spend hours observing this tiny world.
Spring is also the season for hunting morel mushrooms. Being raised by parents and grandparents that encouraged me to seek out and try new things in life; I was able to obtain and nurture a passion for the outdoors and for learning about everything. I find my best reflective moments while hunting for mushrooms in the woods and river bottoms, both in my native north central Kansas and my new northeast Kansas home.
Last night I went hunting morels at the Atchison county lake (I would not reveal this source, except I have never found mushrooms here), among the old oaks, maples, and cottonwoods. Finding no mushrooms among the dead and lightning struck stumps, I proceeded to turn my attention to the spring ephemerals dotting the hillsides. A spring ephemeral is little known by locals andcity-folk, but well known to a plant enthusiast like me. These little beauties pop up in the native woodlands in spring, bloom, produce a flush of seeds, and then wither away before the heat of summer appears.
Among the beauties I saw were Toothwort, Dog-tooth Violet, Mayapple, field pussytoes, Dutchman’s breeches, and a stand of old world narcissus. I had never before observed the toothwort, being unfamiliar both in photograph and real life, making the find of this little ephemeral a real pleasure. I searched high and low for a bloom on the mayapple, but was disappointed. However, I did see my first view of the lily of the dog-tooth violet, a bell hanging from a slender shepherd’s crook.
To wander and see new plants and pleasures amongst the previously hiked glacial hills of northeast Kansas is an experience recommended to those of all ages. To sit and watch the tiny lives of ants and bugs creates a heartwarming time for all. And to wander among the old planted white pines, such as those found at the Steele Cemetery west of Falls City, NE is to be humbled by the presence of giants.
So get out and enjoy the spring!