The earliest blooming flower in my garden is a snowdrop, Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’. The earliest blooming wild flower is coltsfoot. But the earliest blooming native flower? For that, you have to look up. Way up. Because the earliest blooming native flower belongs to the red maple, Acer rubrum.I am always looking down at the ground this time of year, looking for the first spring ephemeral to poke out of the ground. I forget that trees bloom, too, and the red maple is the first. Come to think of it, I do look up during mud season. I look for the red haze on the hillside that tells me spring is on the way. I just forget that the haze is red maples blooming. If you live in the eastern part of North America, you are probably already familiar with this tree, as it is the most common species of tree in North America. It is very adaptable, growing strong lateral roots and a short taproot in moist to swampy soils and a deep taproot with short lateral roots in dry soils. The brilliant fall red color combined with its ability to grow in a wide range of conditions makes it a popular landscape tree. It’s ubiquitous. Some even call it invasive. But while it is a sub-climax tree, the forestry service reports that it can take up to 80 years for the climax sugar maples to predominate. Perhaps it just seems like red maple is taking over, when really it just takes a human lifetime for it to finish its appointed role in succession. It has also had less competition due to the demise of elm and American chestnut. While it may be common, I don’t want to take it for granted. It brings a lot of color to a dreary time of year. Wikipedia reports that the leaves are highly toxic to horses. Did you know that? The next time you find yourself wondering if winter will ever end, look up and see if you can’t find some flowers blooming.
This post is part of an ongoing series on mud season.