Thursday, March 17, 2011

Harbinger of Spring

The keys on my wrist keyring and the leaves give you an idea of the size of this second flower of spring in our area. (The skunk cabbage is first.) Click on the photo to get a closer look at this miniature flower.  I found only two blooming at Big Woods Sanctuary.  One year Tom and I came at the perfect time and the wet woods floor was carpeted with them.  Given the size of these flowers, that was an impressive sight.

I am fascinated by the names of flowers.  Harbinger, according to the dictionary, means "a person or thing that comes before to announce or give an indication of what follows". 

The Latin name for Harbinger of Spring is Erigenia bulbosa.  Bulbosa clearly means the plant comes from a bulb.  And, if a person is knowledgeable about the ancient myths, one would know that Erigenia is an earlier name for Aurora, the Roman goddess of the dawn.  I found this bit of information in The History and Folklore of North American Wildflowers by Timothy Coffey.  I had to look up Aurora in the dictionary to be sure which god she was since I am not up on the ancient myths.

A common name for Harbinger of Spring is Pepper and Salt.  That one is easy to understand.  The stamen are dark on the tips (the pepper) and the flowers are white (the salt).

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