January 25, 2012

From the heavens to the earth

Sometimes the gems we seek can be elusive. Other times, grace delivers unexpected treasures when we least expect them.

I was feeling a little under the weather earlier this week—a touch of the stomach flu and the winter blahs, a pretty powerful combination that knocked me out of commission. As I started to come out of it, I read an article about the aurora borealis, or northern lights, and how we might be able to catch a glimpse of them here in southern Wisconsin.

So the hubby and I set out to find a dark spot away from the city to try to catch a view. I’ve only seen them a couple of times. One time, they were shimmering, undulating ribbons of white across the sky. The other time, the movement wasn’t as dramatic but the colors were vibrant and indescribable.

I wish I could tell you we saw an amazing display this time. We think maybe we did see the northern lights, but they were very faint. We were probably too close to the city (even though we were on a very dark country road), and too far south.

The quest was fun anyway. It’s always healthy to get out of the house when you have cabin fever and simply want do something different. But an amazing view of the northern lights—nah.

If you want to see photos that come close to capturing the magic of the aurora, check out New Aurora Pictures: Solar Storms Trigger Northern Lights from nationalgeographic.com.

But when I got home, I decided to do a little plant research. (Nice segue, huh? But its what actually happened.) I stumbled across a picture of a plant that I’d been trying to ID since last April. There it was right in front of me—and I hadn’t even tried to find it this time. The plant:

Hydrophyllum virginianum

It was Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum). Last April, I decided to spend more time in the wooded part of our property—to identify spring ephemerals and wildflowers. The Waterleaf was a plant I’d photographed but was unable to identify—until last night!

Others I found last spring (some of which Ive already blogged about) included Common Buttercup (Ranunculus acris)…

Ranunculus acris

Sweet Woodruff (Gallum odoratum)…

Gallum odoratum

And a personal favorite, Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis).

Sanguinaria Canadensis

I remember the day and the moment I discovered the Bloodroot. I was simply taking a quick stroll in the woods, when I captured the bright white of the tiny buds out of the corner of my eye. They were clustered around the base of a tree—sticking up no more than a few inches from the leaf-littered forest floor.

What can I say? It was just one of those fleeting moments of pure joy when you discover a miracle that has been right under your nose for a long time, but now you actually see it and appreciate it.

I found another plant in the woods last April that I know I should be able to identify. I remember seeing it in a horticultural class I took a few years back, but I can’t remember the name. Can you?


I can’t wait to get back in the woods to find more wildflowers this spring! I know the treasures are there—just waiting for me to discover them!

I’m joining Gail at Clay and Limestone for Wildflower Wednesday, and although I’m late, I’m also linking in to Pam’s Foliage Follow-Up at Digging. Thanks to both of them for hosting these great memes!

30 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Lea! Now I just need to capture more of them, and in full bloom. :)

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  2. Thanks for joining in for Foliage Follow-Up this month. You have a surprising amount of greenery for mid-winter, or at least more than I'd expect to see in a WI winter. Shows what I know! I enjoyed your story too about looking for the Northern lights.

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    1. Hi Pam: I wish I had that much greenery now! Actually those photos were from last spring--I just wanted to post about my discovery of the Virginia Waterleaf ID. :)

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  3. I hope you are felling better. The flu has been going around here too. I am not sure we need to wait for Spring. I have seen two of them growing in January.

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    1. Thanks! On the mend. I think the plants are growing here, too--under about a foot of snow. :)

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  4. Some lovely wildflowers...many I see here because I have planted them...yours are lovelier because you stumbled upon them in the woods...that plant does look familiar but I do not have my wildflower books with me...I will have to check them later

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    1. Yeah, they're great plants--the foliage is as interesting as the flowers with these guys. I can't wait to find out what the last one is. I'm still checking the books and Web sources, too.

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  5. Glad you are feeling better. And I am sorry your quest for the northern lights did not pan out. My husband and I, on our tenth anniversary, took a trip to Hawaii. We took a whalewatching boat ride, and we did not see one whale. It was very disappointing.

    I have seen many of your wildflowers in my adjacent woods as well. Thanks for identifying them.

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    1. Those whales can be elusive, too. ;-) Maybe you can go back for your 20th or 30th and you'll see them. Still on a quest to ID that last plant. :)

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  6. How nice to be able to finally identify your mystery plant. I know how frustrating it can be for us to not know a plant's name. Hope you are feeling much better now.

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    1. Yes, much better. Thanks, Holley. It's so fun to track down the names and info on plants! I guess I'm a geek, but I never get tired of it!

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  7. Wonderful finds in the woodlands. I am so glad you shared them with us all. A northern lights viewing is on my must see list! I hope you get to see them. gail

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    1. It sounds like this will be a good year to see them at some point. I'd rather head north during the summer, though! ;-)

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  8. I know exactly what you mean about those fleeting moments of pure joy. Sorry you didn't get to see the Northern Lights in all their glory, but you have certainly wetted my appetite for getting out and learning more about the native plants that grow around here come Spring.

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    1. It seems kind of like a nerdy plant-geek safari. But it is so much fun! It will be fun to compare notes again--spring will hit for you way before it does here. Enjoy!

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  9. Glad you are feeling better and were able to get out for a drive. I don't think I've ever seen the Northern Lights--another thing to add to my bucket list! A lovely collection of wildflowers; that last one looks familiar to me, too, but I don't know the name of it either.

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    1. I'm thinking maybe a trip north during an active phase this summer might be a good idea to chase the aurora. Hmmm...I wonder if I'll be able to ID that last plant...

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  10. I enjoyed hearing the story about your discovering the bloodroot. I have never come upon it yet, but I know I would love it too, especially in a wild area.

    And thanks for the plant ID on the VA waterleaf... new to me too.
    Julie

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    1. It's funny how we all have favorite plants that bring us such joy. The Waterleaf has a purple, sort of weedy-looking bloom later in the spring. I almost think I like the foliage better!

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  11. I decided to nominate you, congratulations :-)

    http://graphicality-uk.blogspot.com/2012/01/versatile-blogger-award.html

    Take care, Helene

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    1. Dear Helene: I am so honored! And to be nominated in such amazing company. Thank you! Now I will have to give that post a little thought. :)

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  12. I've never seen the northern lights! Your description from your first viewing sounds magical. Glad it helped you feel better.
    You are so sweet about the Blotanical pick. I haven't been to that site for a long time but thank you so much for the high compliments! I'm not sure what I do with the photos except put them in good indirect light. I never photograph (indoors or outdoors) in full sun. The only other thing would be that I use my macro lens a LOT ~ maybe way too much?!! Hope that helps.

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    1. Thanks, Kathleen! I will keep your camera tips in mind. I think I just need to practice a lot more with indoor plant photography. It seems a lot trickier than outdoor photography. But you do it so well!

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  13. Glad you are feeling better ... and I too adore Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis) although could not find mine last spring :( My wildflower garden is my favorite ... then overplanted with huge drifts of awesome hosta ... sweet woodruff rules and I love it! Ah, sweet spring ... I am longing!

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    1. Oh, I hope you find all your favorites this spring! I need to capture more of them in bloom this year--especially the Sweet Woodruff! We have a lot to look forward to. :)

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  14. I also love wildflowers, so I enjoyed this post and the photos particularly.
    Ciao.

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    1. Thanks, Dona! It's so fun to find them in the woods--especially right outside the backdoor!

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  15. That plant you're wondering about looks like some sort of Avens (Geum).

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  16. Could be, thanks! I just checked it out at the USDA plant database. I'll have to make note of the flowers--which should make the ID even clearer.

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