Too much woods and too little time.
I am excited to find ordinary ramps, Allium tricoccum, the kind that grows in dense matts, has larger leaves, and reddened stems in a far corner of the woods, just below the road, next to an ash tree, Virginia Wetleaf and Wood Anemone. I've looked in all corners by this time, and this appears to be the only patch making the common ramp the rarer of the two in our woods!
At the edge of the north slope, Large-flowered Bellwort, Uvularia grandiflora. Could its wilted appearance be a defense against browsing deer?
Illinois Wildflowers: "The presence of this plant in a deciduous woodlands is an indication that much of the original ground flora is still intact." That's good news, but it's not the whole story in our woods. I do think this bellwort is another worth trying to cultivate.
Jack In The pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum, are coming up throughout the woods.
Minnesota Wildflowers: "Males tend to be smaller than females and have a small hole at the bottom of the spathe which allows pollinators to escape (with their pollen) more easily. Female plants lack the hole and pollinators are more likely to become trapped, better ensuring successful pollination." Pollination leads to the multicolored fruit seen here.
In another, forgotten location, a pink variety of Wood Anemone.
Walking the old tractor road, pulling buckthorn, I leaned in to pull this one until my vision kicked in to halt me.
A nest of baby spiders, no idea what kind, but possibly an orb weaver type. An ephemeral of another kind -off into the world younglings, and do your good work.
The greatest, visible threat to the woods and its ephemerals is the invasion of the biennial herb Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata, and the shrub or small tree known as Common Buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica.
Garlic Mustard is bad, but nothing in our woods is as challenging as Buckthorn. Every fallen tree is another opportunity for this plant. While this corner has been a Buckthorn stronghold for many years, it really took off after a great White Oak toppled in a bad thunderstorm four years ago. It now grows on the trail as much as to the north and south of the trail.
Within the great wetland, large Buckthorn grow on the slightly higher ground occupied by the beautiful Red Osier Dogwood and Pussy Willow. Its seed is dropped by perched birds, which then sprout and overtake the dogwoods and willows. I haven't seen it to go head to head with cattails or get a sure foothold in the ephemeral pond of the back swale. In fact, after last year's flooding, I see many small upstarts didn't sprout this spring. Can we flood them out? If not water, then I love the idea of burning them out, although this would be hard to do safely.
Forestry experts, ecologists, park managers, and many others often discuss the advancing Buckthorn and Garlic Mustard as an ecological issue, a problem of "native" forest habitat. Surely it is, but for me this is a gardening problem. Intellectually, I agree with the experts, but my motivations are less than pure. I simply don't like the look of a Buckthorn monoculture and prefer to be able to see through the woods. I like surprises, yet Buckthorn and Garlic Mustard offer none other than the ability to show up in a previously unheard of location. It may be that ecological problems are more easily taken on when we believe we act for our own interest.