Saturday, March 29, 2008

Calling upon a neighbor ... too late

This is what I missed this week.

This is not my picture. It is borrowed from

On a heap of humus above a giant boulder, within the woods behind my home, this leafy being dwells. I met it for the first time last year, and the sight made me gasp, it really did. I'm not being overly dramatic. I am truly in love with life, in all its myriad forms -- and this one was new to me. Nowhere else in these woods have I ever seen it.

It raised small, white flowers bravely from the leaf litter into the still-chilly spring air. They gave off a faint, sweet fragrance. I surrounded it with a little border of rocks, so that I could find the spot again.

Scarcely a week later, the flowers were gone and the leaves had wilted.

For this is Saxifraga virginiensis, Early Saxifrage, one of the first wildflowers of spring, and like other ephemereals, its life above ground is oh-so-brief. The roots persist; through summer's heat and winter's worst they wait, for just that moment in the early months of the year to display their floral glory.

Saxifrage means stone-breaker in Latin, for this little beauty loves to grow upon rocky slopes, where no doubt its roots do help, by infinitesimal degrees, to break down even the biggest boulders.

This year, I missed the show. I had been meaning to get back out there to that spot, but I miscalculated, I waitdd too long. And today, when I finally made my way back to the circle of stones, the flowers were already shriveled and yellowed, the leaves wilting away.

So this is not my picture. It is borrowed. Perhaps next year I will take my own.


Janice Thomson said...

I have a variegated saxifraga - it's leaves are awesome - the flowers are neat too but not at all showy and there is no scent but oh my those leaves!.

I came across the most beautiful spring flower in the woods last year which I daily check on to see if they are blooming yet this year and I will be posting a glorious poem (I hope :)) in their honor - they are called Fawn Lilies - little pink umbrellas that open and close with the sun's appearance. I can't wait for them to bloom - so I know how you feel ECD.

. said...

how are you?
My life became ... strange!
It seems that finally things are falling into place.
this is my new blog, please keep in touch ;-)

Foster Communications said...

Oh I am envious of your spring. We're surrounded by snow. Icky, icky snow. :(

Rebecca said...

That is a lovely flower! Sorry you missed this year's show.

This weekend I saw forsythia in its glory as well as one or two trees trying to flower. It put a big smile on my face. I should head to Central Park this weekend to see what is coming up. Thank you for the photo (borrowed or not) an the idea.

eastcoastdweller said...

Janice: Oh, take a picture, do!