Over the Garden Gate: Spring flowers yield bounty of blooms

Over the Garden Gate: Spring flowers yield bounty of blooms

If you appreciate the outdoors, all you need to do is follow a gravel road through the woods, trek a right-of-way or wander through a meadow with your eyes ready to spot nature’s bounty of blooms. Take a walk on the wild side. Early-spring wildflowers

are up and available for your enjoyment. If you appreciate the outdoors, all you need to do is follow a gravel road through the woods, trek a right-of-way or wander through a meadow with your eyes ready to spot nature’s bounty of blooms.

One of the earliest plants to bloom in spring is Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara). This non-native plant has bright yellow, dandelion-like flowers that appear before leaves occur. Flowers are nearly an inch wide on scaly stems that are from 3 to 18 inches tall. Disk flowers are surrounded by thin, ray flowers that close at night and on cloudy days.

Flowers bloom in March and April, depending on the weather, then disappear quickly to turn into fluffy seed heads. Each flower can hold up to 150 seeds that become airborne. Small birds use them to line nests. Leaves resemble the shape of a colt’s footprint, hence the common name. They grow at the base of the plant forming a rosette and remain after flowers have gone to seed. Each leaf is heart-shaped, slightly toothed and can grow from 2 to 7 inches across. They help to distinguish the plant from a dandelion, which blooms later and has toothed leaves with similar seed heads and flowers.

Coltsfoot is becoming an invasive weed in some areas. This wildflower can form a dense ground cover and be difficult to eliminate because it can survive in a wide variety of soil types, moisture levels, available sunlight and fertility. It is seen most frequently in disturbed areas along roadsides but can also be found in forest edges, old fields and within forests that have been subjected to some type of disturbance such as a fire.

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