A naturalist reveals some of the wonders of the natural world found right around the Washington, DC Metropolitan area using his own photography and his life-long experiences. I invite you to also check out my Facebook Group "Capital Naturalist" or YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv8LHf1hHCEU3UHdpb-8Mng) or follow me on Twitter: @CapNaturalist.
Friday, April 3, 2015
Pepper-and-Salt is a Harbinger-of-Spring
Harbinger-of-Spring is also called Pepper-and-Salt.
Photos taken at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, March 2014
One of the earliest of our native wildflowers to bloom is the tiny spring ephemeral aptly called Harbinger-of-Spring, or Pepper-and-Salt (Erigenia bulbosa). It often blooms as early as February, sending up a small umbel of white flowers with red anthers that soon turn black (and giving the pepper and salt appearance). It is one of the few native plants with no known symbiotic fungal (mycorrhyzal) associations. This fleeting wildflower is actually in the carrot family and its bulbous minuscule root is edible. The Cherokee also used the plant as a treatment for toothaches. Although it is easy to overlook, it is none-the-less not considered common in most locations, and since eating its root kills the plant, that is strongly discouraged.
Instead, enjoy this early spring wildflower, knowing that it is among the first of many other spring ephemeral flowers soon to appear in our rich, dark woods, a true Harbinger of Spring.