• Heather Fish

Plant(ing) Communities

By Foundry CoWork Nomad Member, Taylor Hinton

I’ve been spending a lot of my time with plants. Mostly I’ve been searching for spring ephemeral wildflowers. These are wildflowers that come and go in a quick, beautiful moment. They shoot up from the forest floor early in the spring and bloom quickly, before the canopy has filled with leaves and blocked out the sun. They take advantage of the sun at a time when little else is growing. They remind me of myself on March days, when I’m so desperate for the sun that I pile pillows on the floor under my best south-facing window and lay in a sunbeam until it fades away. Because spring ephemerals have such a short window in which they can grow, they put very little energy into their leaves and instead focus on creating beautiful flowers that go to seed quickly. You have to be intentional about searching for these flowers in late March and April (in Pennsylvania at least) or you miss them. They come and go in a matter of weeks.

The excitement of looking for these flowers is what gets me through the last push of winter. Hurried walks in the bitter cold turn into walks spent scanning the ground for color. First to come are the spring beauties. These small, white flowers with pink lines down their petals can carpet huge areas of the forest floor. Hepatica and bloodroot are not far behind. Hepatica have pink, blue, or white flowers and can vary in number of petals, from 6 to 20. I find a lot of joy searching for unique hepatica, like the ones pictured above. Bloodroot have bright white petals with a yellow stamen (see below). I know bloodroot most by the way its petals seem to “hug” its stem and the bright orange sap that gives its name. Who doesn’t love a flower known for its hugs and bloody disposition? The trillium come next: they feel the most elegant of the wildflowers. They are most commonly pure white or red, but the more rare painted trillium have white flowers with a brush-stroke of pink in the middle. One of the last in the wildflower parade are the Jack-in-the-pulpit (left). It looks less like a wildflower and more like a venus flytrap.

Bloodroot flowers (left) and leaf hugging the stem (right)

It might sound sad that spring wildflowers come and go so quickly, but I choose to see them instead as a beautiful reminder that good things do not last--they are often momentary and fleeting--yet good things will always return, even on the smallest of scales. Some years, the hillside by Ernst trail is covered in red and white trillium, and other years they are sparse. But the trillium always come back in April. The wildflowers will always appear to soak up the first of the summer warmth before disappearing under the mayapples and tree saplings. In this way they also serve an important ecological niche--just as each one of us serves an important role in our community.

Ecosystems thrive because of the diversity of roles that each living thing serves. Spring ephemerals provide some of the first nutrients for bees as they wake up from a slow, still winter. They also give humans something to anticipate with hope. This makes me think of our coworking community. We need people with different skills, who like different things, and fill different niches: people who work standing up and people who work sitting down; people who need to talk through their work and people who need to listen; people who make things and people who sell things; people who write things and people who draw things. We support each other, just as the wildflowers support the living things around them.

Taylor is an educator in the Meadville community and enjoys teaching most in gardens and science classrooms. She has been a Meadvillian for almost ten years now, first as an Allegheny student and now as a tax-paying, parade-going citizen. When she isn’t teaching, she loves hiking with her dog, Misha, and skipping rocks in French Creek. Taylor is a part of Foundry Cowork as a nomad member. She enjoys using the Foundry space to work on lesson plans, develop community programs, drink delicious tea, and be in the presence of beautiful art work.

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