First Sign of Spring in the Adirondacks

Red Trillium

The transformation from winter to spring in the Adirondacks never ceases to amaze me. Let me paint the picture. It’s March 21, usually the first day of spring, but here in the Adirondacks it looks like anything but. The lakes and ponds are locked in nearly two feet of hard ice and the woods are covered in three feet of snow. But things are starting to change, the lengthening days and higher sun are having their impact. Days above freezing are making the sap run in the sugar maples and the brooks are starting to open up. Fast forward to late April and all that snow and ice are gone. Suddenly green starts to emerge on the forest floor and upon close examination, you see thousands upon thousands of the mottled green leaves of the trout lily, our first wildflower of the spring. The leaves resemble the mottled sides of the brook trout and extending upward from the leaves is a delicate yellow lily flower, which follows the sun through the day and closes as night.

In Early May, following the trout lilies, emerge trilliums and spring beauties. These early spring flowers take advantage of the time between the spring thaw and the leafing out of the trees. During this shadeless time, the forest floor warms very quickly, encouraging the fast growth of the earliest wildflowers. These same flowers, which grow close to the forest floor, out of the wind, rely on insects for pollination. Interestingly, in contradiction to its beautiful bloom, the trillium emits a bit of a foul odor that resembles decaying flesh in order to attract carrion-eating insects that are tricked into spreading its pollen. Ants of course are chief pollinators of trilliums.

Perhaps my favorite spring flower is the red flower that blooms high on the tops of soft maple trees. Where soft, also known as red maple, grow in abundance, it can make the hillsides resemble fall in its reddish cast. Mixed with the fresh expanding light green aspen leaves, the spring landscape is a delight to the eye, yet as I first mentioned, a little over a month ago the Adirondacks were covered in a blanket of snow and ice. Amazing.