Spring Wildflowers With Carol Gracie part 1
After a long, cold, seemingly never-ending winter, what a treat it was to go on a spring wildflower hike with author, photographer and naturalist Carol Gracie. Gracie is the author of two excellent books on wildflowers. Her first book, Wildflowers in the Field and Forest: A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States, was co-authored with Steven Clemants and published in 2006.
In 2012, Gracie’s second book was released: Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast: A Natural History. Her thorough descriptions, informative natural histories, and highly detailed photographs make this book an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about these beautiful native plants.
Although I had heard Gracie speak at several conferences, I did not know much about her background. What an interesting life she has led, including her work teaching at the New York Botanical Garden for over 30 years, and leading numerous foreign tours for that organization. She has traveled all over the world, with over 20 trips to the Amazon alone (she is married to a tropical botanist). It is obvious that Gracie has developed a deep appreciation for plants, especially wildflowers, across the globe.
During our recent hike in Northern Connecticut, Gracie pointed out many interesting facts about the spring wildflowers that we encountered. She noted that Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), one of our earliest bloomers, is of great value to bumble bee queens which overwinter and then emerge early in the spring, hungry and ready to start a new colony. The queens forage by hanging upside down under the odd, tooth-shaped flowers of Dutchman’s Breeches, drawing nectar as they fortify themselves for the arduous business of establishing a new colony.
The ecology of insect-plant relationships are of great interest to Gracie. She pointed out the Virginia White Butterfly, a small white native butterfly, similar in appearance to the European pest, the Cabbage White Butterfly. The Virginia White is found in wooded areas of Northeastern America, and flies only in April in May. It relies upon the nectar of native spring wildflowers including Toothwort, Trilliums and Violets. As invasive exotic plants like Garlic Mustard out-compete our native spring bloomers, they threaten the survival of the Virginia White.
Carol Gracie has much to share about our native plants, and is working on a book about summer wildflowers, which should be released within the next two years. In the meantime, please enjoy the first part of my video or podcast interview with her, and pick up a copy of both of her books.
Happy Native Gardening From Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!
Photo: Carol Gracie, naturalist, author and photographer
Photo credit: Kim Eierman
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