The last “winter” walk

The Virginia waterleaf, Hydrophyllum virginianum, in the Boraginaceae, named for its spotted leaves. We discussed the unknown “how” and “why” of the spotting.  Is their function related or unrelated to the mottling of trout lily?   


We embarked on our final winter walk of the season on April 28th, immediately after the 7th annual HW Greene Grilled Cheese Challenge in Corson Hall.   It has become a tradition for the President of Cornell University to be a judge in the competition, and this year was no different with our new Prez, Martha Pollack, in attendance.

grilled cheese
grilled cheese judges, Harry, Martha, and Bear (photo by Jake Berv)




On this spectacular spring day in the upper 70s (>15 degrees F warmer than average) we headed to Shindagin Hollow State Forest, a spot knows for its spring wildflowers. Twas a great crowd of eager naturalists, with undergrads (Patty, Kevin, Silvia, Bea, and Aliya),  graduate students (Lina, Renee, Nick, Young), postdocs (Patty and Aino), faculty (Anurag, Jennifer) and citizen scientists (Pat, Norman, Anna).  Here are some of the highlights of what we saw.

We saw perhaps the densest Dicentra that I have seen in the Ithaca area. Two species growing side-by-side (see below)
Dutchman’s breeches, Dicentra cucullaria (mentally rotate the flowers 180 degrees to see the the Dutch style inflated pantaloons).
Dicentra canadensis, the squirrel corn, both species are in the poppy family (Papaveraceae).  I did not check for latex (but I should have).












Spring beauty, Claytonia virginica, in the Portulacaceae. Incredibly variable in flower color and striping.


Trillium erectum, is a lilloid monocot recently moved from the Liliaceae to the Melanthiaceae (a family of about 16 genera and <200 species). Flower smells of wet dog.
Trillium grandiflorum
Three more lillioid plant species, all difficult to tell apart before flowering.  Above is bell flower, Uvularia sp., in the Colchicaceae. These three were found all within a few square meters.
Solomon’s seal (Pologonatum sp.) with pairs of flowers (not yet open) hanging from each leaf node. In the asparagus family (Asparagaceae)
False solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) also in the Asparagaceae, with a terminal inflorescence.
Got to love the shag bark hickory (Carya ovata, in the walnut family Juglandaceae), with sugar maple blossoms in the background.
We picked up a lot of logs and rocks… near the stream, we found red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus). Here Norman lifts a rock and reveals a colony of Lasius ants, which have an association with root aphids!
Ant with brood
ant with aphids
Anna with salamander eggs


One of two local toothwort species, this is Cardamine dyphylla formerly in the genus Dentaria  (Brassicaceae). Edible peppery leaves.
Aino with three generations: Pat, Jennifer, and Anna

2 Replies to “The last “winter” walk”

  1. This is a beautifully written piece that paints a vivid picture of a serene winter landscape. The attention to detail and use of sensory language transport the reader to the snowy woods and allow them to experience the peacefulness of the winter forest.

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