Records suggest that they were common and widespread in the oak woods. These days, few woods in this area have many - or any. At Somme, for years, I knew of only two individual plants, now both gone. What happened to them? Then, unexpectedly we found a patch of thirty, and we vowed to protect and restore them widely.
|A few are open. A few are just coming up through the leaves. Most are still invisible.|
These emerald gems are the hepatica leaves. They photosynthesized through spring and summer of 2018 and then settled down for a winter under autumn's fallen leaf blanket. Why do that? Most perennial plants transport what they can from their leaves back to their roots for storage (and energy) over the winter. Pine trees keep their leaves and photosynthesize all winter. But hepatica keeps green leaves where the sun can't get at them. What gives?
Here's a leaf close up. Some are all green, and some have purplish patterns.
(Trivially, hepatica leaves are shaped like human livers. The name "hepatica" comes from a word for liver, just as "hepatitis" means "disease of the liver." Long ago ignorant herbalists thought that God placed "signatures" in plants so we could figure out what diseases they cure. This leaf was prescribed for liver disease. The herbalists who sold it claimed it worked. It didn't.)
Whatever their secrets and science, we love them. Our first flowers of spring. So sweet and good. Bless.
A "more technically interesting and detailed" version of this post is at Strategies For Stewards.
All photos above were taken with a handy cell phone in the last fine week of long-awaited spring.
Thanks to Kathy Garness for proofing and edits.