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The forest floor and what we can do to save it

A walk through the forest  in Ontario at this time of year is truly a delight.  We`re at the start of spring when the trees are still almost bare and a succession of wonderful native wildflowers unfurl as the sunshine warms the forest floor.

The  trout lily (Erythronium americanum) is always first.  You have to crouch close to the ground to see her pretty face and then you get rewarded by the vivid red of the stamens, contrasting so pleasingly with the bright yellow petals. But I think I m most beguiled by the speckled leaf that gives this plant its name. These little fishes are carpeting the woods.
In sunny spots, the trilliums have buds with a hint of colour – deep red or white, a promise of splendour to come.  No need to search fpr the brilliant white of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensi), but you have to look carefully for  the more delicate note struck by hepatica (Hepatica nobilis) which comes in white and purple in these parts.
Back in my own shade garden, the bloodroot that came into bud three weeks and stood firmly closed through the colder weather, finally burst into flower when the warmth returned a few days ago. Then today, I was passing with the hose and thought to give the patch it a drink –it`s been so dry and it dropped all its petals in ingratitude. Show`s over for the year.  Perhaps it`s just too hot today – up to 26 C with a punishing wind from the sout, but due to plunge to more seasonal temperatures, as they say, tonight, with a low of 3.

Behind the bloodroot, the Virginia bluebells are ready to take centre stage, tight blue bud clusters dangling. The spears of Solomon`s Seal and Jack in the Pulpit are shooting up. The leaves of hardy geranium and Bleeding Heart are greening. And what I hope is wild ginger is making its appearance, but my friend Beth says it doesn`t look like any wild ginger she knows. Hmmm, where did I buy it from...
In the nurseries, the pansies are lfying off the shelves. Reliably hardy, they`re a welcome source of colour after the bulbs have flowered. I used to grow black pansies from seed – I loved the way light seems to sink into the velvety sheen. But now I have my native spring ephemerals, much more exciting than the pansy parade, and a welcome connection to the forest.
We had a meeting about alien invasive plants in Elmvale last Saturday. I was one of the organizers, and we were all delighted by the turnout and the quality of the presentations . A key point was that we as gardeners are responsible for planting some of the invasives that are obliterating the unique and wonderful plants that make this little corner of the universe special.
I see this daily – the large patches of periwinkle, goutweed and bugleweed. Garlic mustard only showed up in Simcoe County about five years ago. It`s a dense and vigorous weed in wooded areas in Torronto, Port Hope or St. Catharines – three places where I have walked regularly.  I`m hoping we can prevent the garlic mustard invasion here. I pull it up where I find it when I`m out in the county forest near me. If we all do the same, we can save the magical forest floor.

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