Wednesday, May 11, 2011
It's more or less peak season for spring ephemerals and woodland wildflowers here in southern New England. This clump of Epigea repens (Trailing Arbutus - family Ericaceae) was growing on a seep on an open slope on Wachusett Mountain in west-central Massachusetts. There was quite a bit of variation in flower color, with most being pure white, and this individual being about the darkest violet I could find. Trailing Arbutus flowers have a strong sweet smell, which is difficult to compare with other flowers. I think it's a little like rubber cement, but I haven't met anyone who agreed with that assessment with any real enthusiasm. It's pretty close to the fragrance of Conophytum hammeri flowers, not that that comparison is going to be of much use to most people.
Epigea is rare in my traditional stomping grounds in Connecticut and the NY metro area; I can think of maybe half a dozen spots where a few plants grew, and some of those have disappeared since the '80s. It still seems to be fairly common in woods up in the greater Worcester area, though.