TRR photo by Ed Wesely
Tree flowers come in all sizes and shapes, from showy magnolia blossoms to the minute red maple flowers unfolding right now. A dime can cover the ones in my picture, but myriads on a single maple tree produce the shades of pink that paint our hills in April. The photograph was taken at a tree that bears only male flowers and pollen. (Click for larger version)

April’s heralds. This time of year, tiny, complex flowers of the red maple bloom inconspicuously in yards and along roads. They rely on wind to pollinate them before leaves appear and get in the way.

Blooming at the same time is an annual “weed,” a tiny mustard called Draba verna, which is one of the first plants eradicated by gardeners. Although Draba plucks no heartstrings, it’s a buoyant moment each spring when I discover a small patch of it near the same busy sidewalk in Honesdale, PA.

TRR photo by Ed Wesely
A thumbnail will cover the leaves and two white flowers of this little Draba verna plant. (Click for larger version)

In his classic “A Sand County Almanac,” published posthumously in 1949, the biologist Aldo Leopold wrote of Draba verna: “ Its perfume, if there is any, is lost in the gusty winds. Its color is plain white. Its leaves wear a sensible wooly coat. Nothing eats it; it is too small. No poets sing of it. Some botanist once gave it a Latin name, and then forgot it. Altogether it is of no importance—just a small creature that does a small job quickly and well."

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