Sugarhouse talk of spring beauties started with Larry. On Monday evening when he emerged from the woods after a day of pulling taps he said, “The spring beauties are primping for The Ball. They’re trying on their finery and practicing their twirls.”
On Wednesday he announced, “The Spring Ball was today!”
On Thursday, when my friend Sue and I walked through the sugarbush looking for wild leeks, the spring beauty blossoms were closed up tight. It could have been the cold rain or, more likely, being as how it was the morning after the ball, they were sleeping in.
Meanwhile, fellow tap-puller Christian sent these two photos and captions:
On Friday, Chief of Operations took to counting petals. His studies prompted him to sit down and write:
It wasn’t at all like the typical cruel April weather. Instead of a steady stream of dreary days with rain falling in temperatures not much above freezing, we were experiencing a seemingly endless succession of western-style sunshine bathed in summer-like warmth. This is the type of weather that puts an end to sugar season in a hurry, and we have been pulling maple taps and flushing the tubing.
After the winter snow first melts, the sugarbush floor looks so depressingly brown and bare with only a few flattened, still-green ferns to give it any semblance of life. It is so reviving to see the ephemeral spring flowers abruptly appear, floating over the leaf mold. They have only a couple weeks to do their thing, taking advantage of the full sunlight before the emerging overhead leaves put them in shade.
It was becoming so dry there were fire warnings posted and the first few violets and immature trilliums I noticed looked wilted. And then, overnight it happened. The Spring Beauties rallied and their vigorous blooms completely carpeted the ground in places. Christian said he felt guilty stepping on them though it couldn’t be avoided. I’ve learned these flowers last only three days, and the stamens are only active for one, so the pollinators need to act quickly.
Spring Beauties have edible corms with a nut-like flavor enjoyed by those with enough stamina to gather them. They have five petals and though many are almost completely white, some have showy pink veins running downward toward the stamens that easily catch the eye. Christian noticed a rogue flower with seven petals he called the beast. That got me counting petals, and I found this old photo of a threesome with 5/6/7 petals each, all lined perfectly in a row like a circus sideshow.
Lew Coty April, 2021