Mount Airy Parks: Naturalist Notes

We are launching a new online series for Mount Airy Parks: Naturalist Notes from Park Naturalist Ashley Collier.

With more people exploring their back yards it is the perfect time to start learning about the world around you!

Mount Airy Parks: Naturalist Notes

1st, in the Series:

Spring Ephemerals are short-lived wildflowers that come and go before the leaves on the trees block the sunlight.

Two of the Spring Ephemerals that were recently noticed blooming are Hepatica and Bloodroot.

Hepatica is in the buttercup family –
• One of the first wildflowers to bloom
• Flowers range from pink, lavender or purple to white
• Burgundy, three-lobed leaves
• Learn more about Hepatica at…/hepatica-a-pretty-plant-deserving-o…/

Bloodroot is in the poppy family –
• The flower opens in full sun and closes at night
• Stem and roots secrete a red-orange liquid that was used by Native Americans for dye, war paint, and insect repellent
• Roots are poisonous
• Learn more about Bloodroot at


2nd, in the Series:

Trout lily is a native perennial plant with nodding yellow flowers that bloom in early spring.

The trout lily has a single, nodding flower at the top of a short stalk. Flowers are yellow on the inside and bronze-colored on the outside, with six petals that curve upward away from six brown stamens. The flowers bloom from March to May. Mottled brown and green leaves grow at the base of the plant. Young plants have only one leaf, while mature adult plants have two leaves. Trout lilies grow 6 to 8 inches tall.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:
The trout lily sprouts and flowers in early spring, before new tree leaves grow and block out the sun. Plants grow from a white bulb that has a tooth-like shape
New plants usually grow when underground rhizomes spread and form colonies. Mature plants also spread via seeds. Ants scatter the seeds, eating part of the seed and leaving the rest to germinate.

Did You Know?

Windy Ridge Park has several large patches of trout lily! 

The name “trout lily” comes from the plant’s mottled leaves, which look like the markings on brook trout.

It is also known as the dogtooth violet or adder’s tongue.

Some trout lily colonies are 200 to 300 years old!

Trout lily leaves and bulbs were once eaten for medicinal purposes as a contraceptive.

Sources and Additional Information:
Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
PLANTS Database: Erythronium americanum – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Erythronium americanum – The University of Texas at Austin
Trout Lily – Canadian Wildlife Federation

Trout Lily
Trout Lily (1)

3rd, in the Series:

With more people exploring their back yards lets look at ways we can improve our Bay by looking at what we plant in our own yards. When possible try to select native plants when planting. Below is an excerpt from the Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping book. One of my personal go-to for selecting plants!

Chesapeake Bay Watershed Introduction “Conservation landscaping” refers to landscaping with specific goals of reducing pollution and improving the local environment. In the Chesapeake Bay watershed (the land that drains to the
Bay and its many tributaries), this style of landscaping is sometimes called “BayScaping,” or beneficial landscaping.
Conservation landscaping provides habitat for local and migratory animals, conserves native plants and improves water quality. Landowners also benefit as this type of landscaping reduces the time and expense of mowing, watering, fertilizing and treating lawn and garden areas, and
offers greater visual interest than a lawn. Beneficial landscaping can also be used to address areas with problems such as erosion, poor soils, steep slopes, or poor drainage.
One of the simplest ways to begin is by replacing lawn areas with locally native trees, shrubs, and perennial plants. The structure, leaves, flowers, seeds, berries and other fruits of these plants provide food and shelter for a variety of birds and other wildlife. The roots of these larger plants are also deeper than that of typical lawn grass, and so they are better at holding soil and capturing rainwater.

4th, in the Series: 

Yellow Wood Poppies are a bright and happy reminder it is Spring!

Stylophorum diphyllum, Celandine Poppy, Yellow Wood Poppy
Papaveraceae (Poppy Family)

Appearance: 12-14 in. perennial with gray-green, lobed and toothed leaves is known for its large, poppy-like, yellow flowers. The stalks are leafy and the flowers are produced in clusters. A plant with yellow sap and yellow flowers, solitary or in small clusters, atop a stem bearing a pair of deeply lobed leaves; other leaves basal.

This is a fine species to grow in Eastern wildflower gardens, far less aggressive than the introduced European species. The species name, Greek for two-leaved, refers to the pair of opposite leaves below the flower. This occurs in nature from western Pennsylvania north to Wisconsin and Michigan, south to Arkansas, Tennessee, and southwestern Virginia, with isolated populations in northern Alabama and southern Ontario. Because its range is so limited in that province, it is listed as a Species Endangered by Canadas SARA (Species at Risk Act) and by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada).

Trout Lily (2)
Trout Lily (3)
5th in the Series:

Dutchman's Breeches  are a truly delicate and beautiful Spring Wildflower!

Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman’s breeches) is an herbaceous perennial of the Fumariaceae family. This species has many common names depending on which part of the country you come from. One of its common names, Little Blue Staggers, is derived from its ability to induce drunken staggering if cattle graze on it, due to narcotic and toxic substances in the poppy-related genus. Bleeding heart is another common name.

This native wildflower is common throughout the eastern United States though rarer in the Pacific Northwest. The western populations of Dicentra cucullaria appear to have been separated from the eastern ones for at least one thousand years according to the Flora of North America. The western plants are somewhat coarser in appearance but generally indistinguishable from their eastern counterparts. In Idaho, the species often grows along stream corridors in gravely banks well above the waterline. It also occurs in Washington and Oregon.

Dutchman’s Breeches blooms in the early spring from March to April. Flowers are white to pink and resemble a pair of pantaloons hanging upside down. The flowers wilt almost immediately upon picking so they should not be collected in the wild. The one or more finely compound leaves make the plant appear fern-like. This perennial species has rice-like seed bulbs and is an attractive addition to any garden in moist shady areas.

For More Information Visit:

Get outside and EXPLORE your backyard!

Trout Lily (7)
Trout Lily (8)