Did you ever wonder what must have been growing in our Brooklyn backyards long, long before Brooklyn was divided up into backyards?
The trees that once shaded our little squares of garden are long gone, but many plants that once graced the forest floor can thrive in the shade of the buildings that have sprung up in their place. In early spring, these ephemeral wonders bloom before the trees leaf out, photosynthesize like mad, and then often go dormant till the following year.
One of the first to bloom in Sanguinaria canadensis, our native Bloodroot. Its native range is huge, covering the whole eastern U.S. It's fascinating and extraordinary and wonderful, and not at all hard to grow (and people encountering Bloodroot for the first time always ask, "what's that?").
Its spring arrival is a wonderful drama:
There's a double form available, which is stunningly beautiful, but there's something magic about the water-lily flowers of the straight species, floating above the leaves, which continue to expand toto soak up all the sun they can once the short-lived blooms are spent. The double flowers last longer, but spread more slowly - they're sterile.
The trout-lilies come a little later - and have lots of names, including fawn-lily, glacier lily, and dog-tooth violet (which makes some sense for the European species, which is pinky-purple - all species of a dog-tooth under