One of the most spectacular displays of Mayapples we have ever seen is in West Fairmount Park, in the woods just north of the Belmont Plateau.
We watched them emerge from the earth, and have waited for them to bloom in the past few weeks as they unfurled their leaves, and revealed their blooming capacities. The Mayapples with a single stem will not bloom and the ones with two stems that diverge in a v shape will bloom. The blooms are under the umbrella shaped leaves and can be missed. The best displays in West park are on hillsides that rise up on a side of the trails, so if you turn towards the hillside in the right light, you will see a beautiful and stunning array of waxy white flowers about two inches across glowing beneath the fresh green umbrellas.
If Philadelphia were to have a city flower, the Mayapple would be solid nominee.
Our time machine sputtered as we navigated through West Fairmount Park, along the Belmont Plateau. It was set for 1512 AD, on the exact date, April first. Our Time machine, built in 1959 and purchased second hand, delivered us to 1012 A.D. instead. Now, the real issue is if we can go back to 2012! We had this idea of visiting Fairmount Park before the Europeans arrived and chopped down most of the trees. The old rust bucket took us back 500 years further, but we saw the same plants!
Check this out. Instead of rowhouses, Philadelphia was full of trees and Mayapples. Sassafrass, Tulip Poplar and Oaks growing. ( Our photographs of the 180 foot tall Chestnut trees were lost during our very rough re-entry to 2012, most likely from electrical problems that erased our digital files.)
This violet from April 1st 1012 was duly recorded.
This cut-leaved toothwort was found in magnificent patches in the ancient woods just north of the Belmont Plateau of the 21st century. After our return to 2012, we revisited the location and found the same plants still growing there!
This 1012 image of the plant speaks volumes about the geometry of this specimen. We took notes.
It was so cool to see what we call today Spring Beauty and Mayapple growing 1000 years ago right here in our fair city, Philadelphia. However, after about an hour in the world of 1012, it started to get dark, and we knew we had to be to work the next day. We had 1000 years to travel, and we better get started. So back we went. The time machine sputtered and backfired on the way back and boom! we were back in 2012! we decided to go check out the same areas we were in 1000 years ago and here is what we found in this site: After navigating through a maze of invasives, notably Japanese Knotweed, Lesser Celandine, Norway Maple, Tree of Heaven, Japanese Honeysuckle, we found the old forest still hanging on! It was a vestige of what we saw in 1012, and it was under assault by the invasives, but it was still there!
There was a roaring highway that cut through the forest creating a menacing presence. The Schuykill expressway.
Oh yeah, that thing, and there it is.
The forest was still growing though, what left of it there was.
Watching the Mayapples come up is joyful. The little delicate green umbrellas are at it again! The path between the Recycling Center and the Strawberry Mansion Bridge in West Fairmount Park has a great display of the earliest emerging Mayapples on the west side of the Schuylkill River.
This colony of Mayapples will go dormant before other later emerging colonies will. Like many plant colonies, this one has a distinct habit of being, different from other Mayapple colonies found in other parts of the park. They are in a protected ravine, close to Skunk Cabbage, and a small brook. Much lower in elevation than in Morris Park. Beech and Red Maple above.
When Mayapples first come up they are shiny and perfect. When they do emerge, they grow very quickly. They open up just like an umbrella! Let us know if you find them in your woodland.