Thursday, March 15, 2012

Little Yellow Beauties and Their Shocking Secret

Dear George,
We never had much of a winter this year. It’s in the high seventies today, and the odds of a late March blizzard are rapidly disappearing. The first wildflowers have suddenly popped up in Burnet Woods. They are pretty little eight-petalled yellow flowers that grow in big sprawling patches. They’re the most visible marker of spring’s arrival in our neighborhood, and, for me, they always elicit feelings of happiness, relief, and well-being. Here’s how these sweeties are looking this week.

My parents were ardent wildflower fans, cataloguing every plant they could find in Menominee County and surroundings. I decided I couldn’t just post photos of pretty yellow flowers without at least finding out what they are. It just took moments on the Internet to discover that these are Fig Buttercups (also known as Lesser Celandine). The shock was that horticulturists absolutely hate Fig Buttercups. One Plant Conservation website classifies them in the “Least Wanted” category. The Fig Buttercup is native to Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa. It was brought to the U.S. as an ornamental plant. The problem is that the those clever little Fig Buttercups escaped and spread across the northeast from New Hampshire to Wisconsin. It reproduces and spreads rapidly before any of the native early spring wildflowers appear, e.g., trilliums, bloodroot, wild ginger, twinleaf, and many others. Because the Fig Buttercup takes over areas so completely, it often wipes out the other early spring wildflowers. I’m having a difficult time assimilating this. I still think Fig Buttercups warm one’s heart. However, we grew up in our family worshipping the sacred Trillium, and, if the Fig Buttercup is its arch-enemy, I’m going to have to rethink my priorities.

G-mail Comments

-Sue P. (3-16): Hi L’s, Just wanted to say Happy Chinese Bells Day! Beautiful weather here but no Spring flowers as of yet. We will have Trillium soon but after 18 years here near the river I still can't find any Arbutus. My one wish is to smell that lovely flower once more before I die. Love to you, Sue
-Jennifer M (2-16): It's really disconcerting, isn't it? They are beautiful, but represent something so bad. Kind of like this wonderfully mild winter and beautiful spring--beautiful, but reminding us of global warming.
-Phyllis S-S (3-15): Dave, How lovely they are. But- they fore our trilliums? I love trillium. When I was a kid a few days before May 1 we all went to the city park and picked wildflowers - a wide variety- made paper cones of paper and left them on the porches of our best friends - rang the bell and ran. Then the city/state outlawed picking wildflowers and it was done…. Best, Phyllis

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