While the Service Berry is making a big white splash among the still gray forest landscape, there are the rather quiet, inconspicuous flowers that are easily overlooked. They don’t mean to hide, they just don’t need to be ostentatious. They get the job of seed making completed without the aid of a lot of insects. One of the most known and looked for in early Spring is known as Harbinger of Spring or Pepper and Salt, formally known as Erigenia bulbosa. As a person stands up and gazes at the woodland ground, it is almost invisible. The flower stalk comes up from the ground, blooms and then the leaves form.
Not so well known are the small Sedges, the common name for the genus Carex. Most Sedges don’t have a common name because most people don’t really notice them as being different from other grasses or even each other. To most “they all look alike,” but they aren’t. The only reason I noticed this one was because I was really bending over to look at something else nearby. It was different from the grassy growths I was used to seeing, so I looked closer. I’ve tenatively identified it as Carex pensylvanica, a common species found in dry oak woods. The top part of the flower stalk has the male flowers,the lower part the female flowers. As with all sedges, it has triangular stems. This one spreads primarily by stolons creeping long through whatever soil it can find. To see the actual flowers, magnification is usually needed. As you can see, this clump is small, with the flower stems and leaves less than five inches tall. When the flower stalks complete their job, die and get blown away, it will look just like many other, perhaps different, clumps of grass.
So while it may seem that almost everything is either dead or dorment at the tailend of winter, life is still really going on, just quietly.