Spring has been a long time getting here this year. I was so used to snowflakes blowing by my classroom windows – just last week! – that the sight of petals sailing past took awhile to register. What? Some tree had already bloomed, and I failed to notice?
I took a hike along the Gunpowder River, searching for spring ephemerals. The floodplain, usually filled with color at this time, seemed drab. And then, one by one, they caught my eye.
A later hike through the serpentine barrens of Soldier’s Delight turned up a similar delay in flowering. Still, the small bursts of brightness in this dry landscape were well worth the hunt.
Determined not to miss another spring beacon, all my classes went outside this week to find flowers. Like a swarm of famished insects, we descended on the dandelions and violets, the ground ivy and dead nettle, the peach, serviceberry, and crabapple trees. We looked for specific colors, smells, textures, and tastes, compared structures, considered the effects of landscape changes and recent weather.
Several classes dissected flowers to find their reproductive parts, the prominent pollen-laden anthers and tiny hidden ovules. We cut open fruit to see what characteristics the developed ovaries of angiosperms had in common, and which were different.
I realized by the end of the week, when I was searching our biodiversity Flickr album, that my photographs containing flowers were rarely about the flowers themselves, but more often featured an insect, with the flower that it was pollinating given little, if any, notice. And yet, flowers are clearly essential, their attractive qualities vital to perpetuating their own and others’ lives – including ours. We usually take for granted the fruits of their labors.
So here, along with this seventh grader’s food for thought, is a collection-in-progress of some of the flower (and pollinator) power found at Jemicy in the past several years.