Sunday, April 13, 2014


Hepatica americana
Several years ago I read an article that claimed that your average American would not be able to name 100 plants in their neighborhood. I have been meaning ever since to start an official list of our own, as I have an obsessive need to know the names of things.  For me it gives the forest shape; if I take the time to identify something, I've probably taken the time to look at it pretty closely and won't be as likely to forget it.  On the other hand, there is a plant here that grows all through the forest and it took me YEARS to be able to identify it.  I had a mental block against it - it's just one of those things.  I've also told myself that some year I'll learn The Yellow Flowers, but for now they still exist as many-petalled vaguely dandelionish things.  

So, it seems fitting to kick the list off with the first flower of spring: Hepatica.  The three-lobed leaves are visible all year long, but the flowers emerge early in the spring.  I think that the photos here are all of the Round-Lobed Hepatica, or Hepatica americana.  It is also sometimes called Anemone americana.  The name Hepatica means "of the liver", refering to the liver-shaped leaves and according to the Doctrine of Signatures (whereby a plant could treat the organ it resembled) it was thought to help the liver. 

The flowers, which sport sepals, many stamen, but no petals, range in color from white to deep purpley-blue.  As Ani observed, these plants are also really hairy!!

My information comes from one of my two trusty wildflower field guides: the Lone Pine Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and the Southern Appalachians.  I use it in tandem with Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. The former has wonderful photographs and includes native lore and traditional uses in the description; the latter has taught me how to key out a plant, and is great for identifying an unfamiliar flower.

The girls love knowing plants too, and I'm hoping this is something we continue together.  We'll aim for the plants we know already, that are in the woods, yards and fields of southeast Ohio, but I'm guessing it will be added to during our travels around the country as well.  Maybe you'll find something helpful here!  It feels like a nice way to celebrate spring...

No comments: