struck me not just for their beauty, but for another reason: Though we have planted them extensively, none of the plants featured are from the Hudson Valley. They are imports from Europe and Asia that don’t reflect the unique qualities of where we live. With growing interest in nature-friendly landscaping, it’s a great time to go for a hike to find signs of the true Hudson Valley spring.
Here are few native plants to look for throughout Westchester:
Red and silver maples: Their red flowers may individually be small, but the trees give whole swaths of forest a strong red tint. Look for examples of these just about anywhere.
Spicebush is a shrub that is a native counterpart to forsythia, featuring yellow flowers in early spring. However, it’s less gaudy and isn’t weedy. It is also the host of the spicebush swallowtail butterfly. Spicebush is found in small numbers in most woods; there are masses of it around the pond at the .
Skunk cabbage has emerged in all the wet places -- see them along the many small streams in the .
If you really want a terrible smell, skip the skunk cabbage and take a deep breath of one of a Callery pear’s flowers. The white-coated trees aren’t bad to look at, but they are responsible for the whiff of rotten meat you’ve gotten walking down the street. They also have weak wood and many have been removed due to storm damage. Why have they been planted so extensively? They’re cheap to buy.
In a few weeks the native geranium, jack-in-the-pulpit, trout lily, and other spring wildflowers will emerge. But there are far fewer spring ephemeral flowers to be found these days -- development and invasive species have taken a severe toll on them in the Hudson Valley. What are all the green shrubs leafing out? Japanese barberry, multiflora rose, honeysuckles, and other invasives. This is an excellent time of year to see just what a hold these have on our natural areas: If plants were buildings, we’d live in a blighted neighborhood.
What signs of spring in the Hudson Valley do you see now? Can you see the aesthetic impacts of invasives on our natural places?