Carden Nature Guide

Early Spring Flowers on the Carden Alvar

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2-4-10Snow has begun to melt off the Carden Alvar now in late March and water is forming large pools on the surface of the land.  These will turn into large ponds, even lakes, as the early April rains add to the surface water.  Many White-tailed Deer are now moving out of their winter yards under the cedar and hemlock trees, between the patches of alvars.  The leaves of last years Prairie Smoke can be seen now that the snow has gone and the early growth of Early Saxifrage is just beginning.


This plant that gets its names meaning ‘the rock breaker’ is one of the first to bloom on the alvar.  The white blooms will be evident in this area a month from now and lasting into late May.  These white blooms will be closely followed by the bright yellow blooms of Early 2-4-18Buttercups turning the alvar meadows into seas of white and yellows in May.  About the same time as the woods are full of the white and red blooms of the trilliums and alvars are covered with the white and yellow blooms of these plants which will have all but disappeared by the first day of June.  More white will be added in May by Bastard Toadflax, Field Chickweed, and Rock Sandwort.  Dogwood, Hawthorn, Fragrant Sumac, Meadowsweet, Juneberry, Plum, and Cherry shrubs will add white, cream, and yellow colours to the landscape.


The beautiful flowers of Wild Columbine will also be in bloom along the roadsides and open alvars.  Some early flowers from plants in the mustard family will also add to the yellow and white landscape.  One of the best displays of spring blooms is by Mossy Stonecrop.  Carpets of yellow blooms from this low, creeping plant growing on open limestone areas add a profusion of colour to limestone grey.   Yellow is also supported by the late May blooms of Barren Strawberry growing along roadsides or on the alvar in areas of deeper soil.  Common Strawberry blossoms from the same family add to the white.  By June New Jersey Tea will add to the whites while St. John’s-worts and cinquefoils will add to the yellows.  Harebells will add touches of blue, Indian Paintbrush (Painted Cup) orange, and Hairy Beardtongue, pink at this time of year.  Smaller flowers like Thyme-leaved Speedwell, Purslane Speedwell, Smaller Skullcap, False Pennyroyal, Thyme-leaved Sandwort, Common, and Mouse-eared chickweeds may go unnoticed.

One wildflower adds beautiful colour to these fields of white and yellow that are present from mid-April to mid-June.  This is the red/mauve blooms in May and the purple or mauve styles in June of Prairie Smoke.  Patches on alvars and roadsides in June blowing in the gentle breezes over the open plains reminds one of a purple or mauve smoke that hangs low in the air just above the ground.  This is certainly a beautiful flower and represents the Carden Alvar so well.
The Carden Field Naturalists could not have done better than to adopt this plant as our official flower for our logo.  Every spring I look forward to the blooms of Prairie Smoke, also called Three-flowered Avens and make a trip to the Carden Alvar knowing that this is one of the few locations that I can see these displays.