m is for mayapple


Each May I keep watch for my favourite woodland flowers, especially the mysterious Mayapple.

In frequent pilgrimages to the woods, I see Squill showing their colours, and spiders starting the summer with feasts of midges.

Lavender Squill

Forest Web

Then one day the Mayapples are shooting up out the ground, fully formed.

Mayapples at the foot of a stump

Within a few days the above-ground part of the plant has unfurled. Those that will blossom and then bear fruit have two leaves and one flower bud, visible as soon as the unfurling begins.

Mayapple after rain

I’m surprised to see a snail has climbed to the top of a Mayapple. But a closer look reveals no one is home in that beautiful shell. The empty shell was simply lifted from its winter resting place as a Mayapple emerged from directly underneath.

Snail at the summit

Over the next two weeks I visit the woods several times, eager to find the Mayapples in full blossom.

On dewy mornings, short grasses along the way have gone to seed and are happily soaking up moisture.

Jewelled grass

In the shade near Mayapple patches, Wood Geranium flowers bloom in shafts of sunlight that streak through the spotty springtime forest canopy.

Wood Geranium

A small branch at my feet, long since fallen away from a tree, is growing beautiful arcs of fungi.

Arc of fungi

At last, when I get down low and gaze through the dim light near the forest floor, I see white flowers.

Forest Canopies

Beneath the tall tree trunks are Mayapple leaves, beneath those are Mayapple blossoms, a few inches lower are Trillium blooms, lower still are Trillium leaves, and lower still, you’re getting close to the forest floor.

When you get close enough to a Mayapple blossom you are treated to a strangely rich scent, a foretaste of the delicious fruit that will soon form. If you’re lucky, the squirrels might leave one or two ripe fruits for you to taste in late July or early August. (You don’t want to cheat by grabbing an unripe fruit, which is poisonous along with all other parts of the Mayapple plant.) And if you don’t manage to sample the fruit, just getting a sniff of the flower is a worthy consolation prize.

Mayapple blossom

the forest beneath the forest


A southern Ontario forest in early April might seem a bleak habitation, especially on a grey day. Few birds sing their songs, few green shoots have poked out of the ground, and only a few trees have begun to bud out.

Blanket (click images for larger views)

Yet the floor of the forest can be colourful on a damp day and riotously so on a sunny day.


Turning to Gold

The mosses and lichens shine out in their profuse diversity – sometimes illuminated with the memory of a passing bird.

Mixed Media


Forest for the Trees

Though the mosses are the first “flowers” of spring, they are quickly followed by other woodland natives eager to catch a growth spurt before the leafing trees above can capture the sunlight.

Under the G

Purple Greens

At the edge of the forest, dogwoods provide a reliable splash of colour right through the winter.

Red Thickets

And by mid-April, young Red maples at forest’s edge steal the show with their flowering.



Photo at top of page: Circular Triangle (click here for full-size view)