poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘flowers of spring

three yellows

with 3 comments

On Sunday, we went for a drive along New Brunswick Route 615, eventually travelling from Mactaquac to Nackawic. A pleasant drive, climbing into the hills of this part of New Brunswick.


Early into our drive, a theme suggested itself … the yellow flowers of spring. These included the daffodil and the blazing Forsythia (Forsythia sp.) … a deciduous shrub with copious yellow blooms.






Another yellow flower crowding the edges of almost every ditch, was Tussilago farfara or Coltsfoot.  The flowers have been in bloom a couple of weeks and will soon set their white fluffy seed. After the flowers have faded, the leaves will appear, big green ears seemingly unrelated to the yellow flowers of spring.


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At the foot of a farmer’s field, we saw another yellow flower, usually found in wooded wet areas or in hardwoods. The mottled green and purple leaves are the first identifying feature. Close-up, the nodding yellow flower with its recurved petals and drooping stamens show this is the Dog’s Tooth Violet, or Yellow Trout-lily (Erythronium americanum).








Today, my yellow tulips are blooming, yet another addition to the yellow flowers of this season.


All my best,


Written by jane tims

May 15, 2019 at 11:11 am

pink lady’s slipper

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This time of year, my husband does an inventory of the Pink Lady’s Slippers (Cypripedium acaule) on our property.



This year, he found 10. He only saw three last year but there have been as many as 15 in bloom at one time. We never pick them and try to keep our property natural and wooded.


The Pink Lady’s Slipper prefers acidic soil and partly shady conditions, making our grey woods an ideal habitat. Our flowers are often a pale pink or white variety.



Copyright Jane Tims 2017


Written by jane tims

June 23, 2017 at 7:00 am

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens L. var glabrifolia)

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One of the common flowers of early spring is the Mayflower (Epigaea repens L. var. glabrifolia), or Trailing Arbutus, also called Epigee rampante in French.  It belongs to the heath or heather family (Ericaceae).   It grows in open woods, or pastures, and along hillsides, in acidic soil.

Mayflower in bloom, photo taken in 1978 in Nova Scotia

The Mayflower is part of what Roland and Smith (The Flora of Nova Scotia, The Nova Scotia Museum, 1969) called the ‘Canadian Element’, woodland plants native to Northeastern North America and including common plants of the coniferous woods:  Maianthemum canadense Desf. (Wild Lily-of-the- Valley), Mitchella repens L. (Partridge-berry), Gaultheria procumbens L. (Wintergreen) and Trientalis borealis Raf. (Star-flower), among others.  When I worked on my M. Sc. thesis project, years ago, these were in the community of plants I encountered in the woods I was studying, and they are still my favorite plants.

two members of the ‘Canadian Element’ community – leaves of Wild Lily-of-the-Valley (left) and Wintergreen (right)

The name epigaea means ‘on the earth’, and perfectly describes the way the Mayflower grows.  The specific name is from the Latin repens meaning ‘creeping’.  The plant spreads across the ground, its oval, leathery leaves lying flat and overlapping.  The leaves persist all winter and sometimes look a little weather-worn.  The variety we have is glabrous on the lower leaf surface, meaning without hairs. The leaves grow on hairy, woody twigs.

leaves of Mayflower in the Grey Woods, April 2012

The flowers grow in clusters tucked beneath the leaves.  They are creamy white, and are in the form of a short tube ending in five flaring lobes.  They bloom mid-April to mid-May.  The flowers along our woods have just completed their blooming. For a nostalgic look at the tradition of picking Mayflowers in spring, have a look at

A delight of spring is to manoeuvre close to the ground so you can smell the Epigaea flowers.  The perfume is very sweet, gently stirring.  The only edible part of the plant is the flower and it tastes as sweet and fragrant as it smells.  It is a shame to eat such a delicate creature as a Mayflower, but once a year I allow myself the privilege, just one tiny bloom (always be absolutely certain of the identification before you eat any plant in the wild).  The plant is protected in some areas since it rarely sets seed and is almost impossible to transplant.

The Mayflower is the floral emblem of Nova Scotia and Massachusetts.



Trailing Arbutus

(Epigaea repens L.)


on the slope, new leaves

          Trientalis, Gaultheria

Star-flower, Wintergreen,

vines of Partridge-berry creep,

          Maianthemum unfurls


beneath the din, a melody

weeps Epigaea, evergreen

pressed to the hillside

leather armour, thickened leaves

weather-beaten, worn


waxy bloom resists

subtle shadow


unrelenting rain




1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

©  Jane Tims   2012

accents in red

with 15 comments

We are still in the greys and browns of spring.

There are a few wildflowers blooming. The Coltsfoot is spreading carpets of yellow along the roadside.  And flowers in the deep hardwoods have begun to display their delicate beauty.  But most places are drab and colorless.

I watch for red this time of year.  There are a few red berries, still clinging to their branches after winter.

And the stems of Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera Michx.) are brilliant in the fields and ditches.

My favorite ‘red’ of spring is the muted red of the blueberry fields.





the blueberry barren

is faded scarlet

red osier in ditches

rosebush and hawthorn

a single berry, a single haw

Earth in brown

toenails red


©  Jane Tims 2012

Written by jane tims

April 16, 2012 at 6:43 am

Coltsfoot (Tussilago Farfara L.)

with 13 comments

Although it has been snowing sporadically this month, our recent days of very, very warm weather tell me spring has arrived.  As a result, I am watching the roadsides for the first flowers of spring.  Even before the snow is out of the woods, it begins to melt along the roadsides as they warm in the lengthening hours of sun.  And the cycle of bloom begins again.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago Farfara L.) is one of the first plants seen in early spring.  It forms large patches in waste areas, beside brooks and roads, and on damp hillsides.  People often mistake Tussilago for Dandelion, but it is quite different.  Its yellow flowers are borne on scaly, leafless stems.  The large, woolly leaves don’t appear until later in the season.  In spite of its early appearance in spring, Tussilago actually has late flowers.  The flower buds are formed in autumn at the base of the plant, and pass winter underground, flowering in the first spring sunlight.

Other names for the plant are Son-before-the-Father, which refers to the appearance of flowers before the leaves, and pas-d’âne (literally donkey-steps).  The scientific names are from the Latin tussis, meaning a cough, referring to the use of the plant as a remedy for such ailments, and the Latin word for coltsfoot, farfarus.  The plant was named by Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who established the present day system of naming plants.

Although the plant was used by pioneers for its medicinal effects, it is now known that Tussilago contains harmful alkaloids.  Tea made from Coltsfoot has caused health problems in infants and pregnant women, so its use as a cough remedy is not recommended.  In some States, Coltsfoot is considered a noxious weed.




Tussilago Farfara L.



splashed beside the road

like prints

of a frisky colt’s feet


at first glance-

an early dandelion!


too early

stem scaly

no leaves         below the bloom

no perfume.




(flowers before the leaves).

Introduced from

far, far away.

Old wives say

boiled greens

will ease

a cough.


Long ago


sprang from where

a burro trod

among the palms




Published as: ‘Coltsfoot’, Winter 1993, The Antigonish Review 92:76-77.


© Jane Tims  1993


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