An early spring beauty
In early spring before the oaks, hickories, maples and tulip trees bear new leaves, small woodland wildflowers begin to bloom. These wildflowers need sunlight in order to grow and produce seed. Tall trees reach out far and high to form a forest canopy. As the trees grow leaves, the canopy closes off sunlight, putting much of the forest floor in shade.
The small native wildflower shown here is the spring beauty. It is not the earliest spring flower to bloom in Southeast Missouri, but it is one of the first. Primarily a woodland plant, this 6- to 8-inch-tall plant is often seen blooming in local yards, where it is a welcome sign of spring.
There are several kinds of spring beauty growing wild throughout the eastern half of North America. They all have five petals on each flower and each petal has distinctive pink veins, although the heights and leaf configurations differ from one kind to another. The kind shown here is widespread and common in Southeast Missouri. An individual plant will have a single long stem usually sporting two opposing green leaves that vaguely resemble a curved sword blade.
The spring beauty will bloom for about five weeks.
Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the Painted Wren Gallery.