Middlesex Fells

Yesterday I went out to the Fells for the first time this year.

  • Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) (buttercup family) – Hooray! I’ve been on the lookout for this character for a couple of years now, since noticing that celandine is one of the most popular weeds in the Boston area. It was the first thing I saw at the parking lot. Lesser celandine isn’t even in the same family as celandine, which is in the poppy family, nor does it look remotely alike apart from having yellow petals. The shiny petals are kind of a tell that it’s buttercuppy, but I’m so used to buttercups having five petals that it wouldn’t have occurred to me to group this with Ranunculus. Wikipedia has an anecdote, involving Wordworth’s gravestone, of mistaken identity with these two.
  • Downy Juneberry (Amelanchier arborea) (rose family) – This is the shadbush. I guess if I were old-time enough I’d reckon the shad to be spawning about now. The leaves are really quite spectacularly downy. I think last year I probably must have seen this, but I wasn’t as turned on to shrubs then, and I’d have called it some crazy cherry.
  • Some Crazy Cherries (Prunus sp.) (rose family) – The main cherry in the Fells is the fire cherry. But I saw two others. One type had large pink flowers – my best guess is that they were sour cherry, escaped from some farm in olden times. Another had white flowers like the fire cherry, but about half the size, and the bark of the twigs was gray rather than reddish. This is a tough time for identifying shrubs; my Newcomb’s guide doesn’t get into much detail with them, and my beloved Peterson’s guide to trees and shrubs doesn’t even mention flowers. The latter keys on vegetative characteristics, but since the leaves are so small and wonky now, and the buds are broken open, I pretty much can’t use it for another couple of weeks.
  • Sessile-Leaved Bellwort (Uvularia sessifolia) (lily family) – Also, strangely, known as wild oats. This was growing in amongst some of the Canada mayflower which carpets the forest pretty much floor throughout the Fells. An unassuming flower, though the foliage is lustrous and beautiful when you look at it.

I also took special note of the following, which I saw last year around this time.

  • Small-Flowered Crowfoot (Ranunculus abortivus) (buttercup family) – I saw this all over the muddy pathsides on Eagle Island last spring. In the fells, it was growing in drier conditions, among common violets and garlic mustard. They were underneath an elm with distinctly slippery inner bark, and new leaves which were downy-hairy above and beneath. Peterson’s tree and shrub guide fails me here too, since it expects full-grown leaves, which it says are sandpapery above. But I think it was probably a slippery elm.
  • Ovate-Leaved Violet (Viola fimbriatula) (violet family) – I just like this. It’s got a nice, deep purple to it. There was a small section of path which was carpeted with them on either side. Latin fimbriae are fibers, shreds, fringe, so I guess the species name is mean to refer to the downiness of the leaves?

I also heard a brown thrasher and goldfinches (with whom I’m becoming quite taken), and saw my first red-winged blackbird of the season.

25 Responses to “Middlesex Fells”

  1. Bryan Hamlin Says:

    Hi Desultor,
    I agree, it was a good weekend in the Fells, and suddenly all these spring flowers. The Shadbush is tricky on specifics – there are certainly two species in the Fells. Glad you’ve noticed R. abortivus. R. ficaria is attractive but is a somewhat unwanted introduced species.
    Other attractive early spring flowers to see are Hepatica on Bear Hill, Bloodroot in several different parts of the Fells and Wood Anemone, fairly common.
    Try my website on plants to see in the Fells at http://www.foundinthefells.com
    Happy hunting,
    Bryan

  2. desultor Says:

    Hi Bryan,

    I didn’t see the R. ficaria anywhere but right by the parking lot, so I’m willing to forgive it its minor trangressions. The Alliaria petiolota is another story, I’m afraid.

    I’ll have to check out Bear Hill very soon and see the Hepatica – thanks!

    -D.

  3. Mansion House Florists Says:

    Hi yes the Lesser Celandine is very much buttercup looking just with twice as many petals and an inner ring of petals – i think it looks very much like the sun – very nice!. If you are out for an early morning walk dont expect to see these until after 9 or 10 in the morning as they open then and close at about 5 or 6 of an evening so shop working ours only of you want to see them.

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  8. churchill downs Says:

    Hi Desultor,
    I agree, it was a good weekend in the Fells, and suddenly all these spring flowers. The Shadbush is tricky on specifics – there are certainly two species in the Fells. Glad you’ve noticed R. abortivus. R. ficaria is attractive but is a somewhat unwanted introduced species.
    Other attractive early spring flowers to see are Hepatica on Bear Hill, Bloodroot in several different parts of the Fells and Wood Anemone, fairly common.
    Try my website on plants to see in the Fells at http://www.foundinthefells.com
    Happy hunting,
    Bryan

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