I went out in search of the first wild orchids of the year and failed. I did see a dead bear. And even better, more crocuses.
Nature seldom disappoints.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “the world laughs with flower”
It was a beautiful day. Chris was gone gambling to the USA with her sister Huguette and Nick and Debbi. I was as free as a bird. Not that Chris restricts my movements very much I must admit. So I went in search of the prairie crocuses. The crocus is one of the first of our wild flowers to bloom. And one of the most glorious.
It was my first botany trip of the year in Manitoba. I went on many in Arizona, but that was the most disappointing of years for plants since the drought meant there were very few flowers available and cactuses seem to bloom late. I was sad about that. Very sad.
Crocus or Pasque flower as it sometimes called, ( Anemone patens var. wolfgangiana) is the floral emblem of Manitoba and (as Pulsatilla hirsutissima) the state flower of South Dakota. I find it one of the most beautiful flowers, and no doubt have more pictures of it than any other flower. Every year I say, ‘enough already’ and then next year start photographing them all over again.
I have been thinking a lot about one particular issue this year. I am coming to believe that plants and animals are not as different as people think. I thought about this because I heard someone on CBC radio refer to “plant and animal nations.” That is a wonderful comment.
This made me think about an exciting statement by Henry Beston:
For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.
Is that not just as true of plants? Another kingdomthe scientists say. Scientists classify organisms (life) into a hierarchy that begins with kingdomand works its way ever farther into phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species, in that order. This can be very challenging. It is difficult enough for me just to remember the order of the categories. Here’s a mnemonic referring to 16th-century Spanish exploration that might help: King Philip Crossed Over For Gold and Silver. One I like even better goes like this: Kings PlayChess On Fat Guy’s Stomach’s. Sometimes people add another category, ‘Domain’ at the beginning before kingdom. Then the mnemonic becomes: DoKings Play Chess on Fat Guy’s Stomach’s? Whether it is kingdom, domain or nation, all of these concepts refer to a temporal jurisdiction assigned by us. I will come back to this issue later. I call it affinity.
The day was warm. There were some clouds, but as a photographer I actually wished for more clouds. I would have to use a diffuser to spread out the bounty of the sun. That bounty can create harsh conditions of light for photographers of flowers. Worse however, was the wind. Wind is not a wild flower photographer’s friend. It was very windy. The wind was a difficult challenge. When I got home I was pleasantly surprised how most of my photos were sharp. My technique in such circumstances is to wait for a lull in the wind. It usually comes but patience is required in abundance. I don’t always have enough of that. Today I did.
Another factor I discovered at the first site I stopped at was dust. The extreme dry conditions and wind sent dust drifting over me after every car passed and there were surprisingly many at this first stop. That was a pity because the crocuses were numerous. Not only that, the crocuses were big and fat with fine colour. I wondered if this was the best crocus year ever. I was in heaven (again). I keep going there. It is a nice place.
Crocus (Anemone patens)
This flower is technically not a crocus but that is its common. It is certainly one of Manitoba’s most beautiful wild flowers. It is also one of the first flowers to appear each year in Manitoba. It tells us spring is here.