I thought it might be kind of cool to pick a flower for each month and write a little bit about it. Hickory Nut Gorge is so rich in its diversity that finding a candidate for each month is not very difficult. What is difficult is deciding which one to highlight because they are all so wonderful. For March I am picking a particular genus because it only has two species that occur here and they bloom at the same time. My choice is Hepatica.
Hepatica, also known by its other common names liverleaf and liverwort (common names which actually reflect the Latin name), is one of our less conspicuous spring ephemerals. Spring ephemerals are plants that have very short "air time." In other words, they produce their leaves, stems, flowers, and fruit over a very short period of time, usually a few days to two or three weeks. Once they flower and reproduce many of the external structures quickly die back and the remainder of plant (usually leaves and what's underground) will continue to thrive, surviving on accumulated starch found within the tuber, corm, or similar structure. Hepatica is an example of a spring ephemeral.
|Flowers of Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis-obtusa)|
|Last year's leaves of Round-lobed Hepatica.|
Hepatica has an interesting history in herbal lore that goes back to the historical Doctrine of Signatures, a concept that was developed by Paracelsus. The Doctrine of Signatures basically states that things in nature are marked with a sign that signifies their purpose. In the plant world that might mean that if a leaf is shaped like a kidney, then the plant would be good for kidney ailments. A plant with heart-shaped leaves would be used to treat cardiac ailments. You get the idea.
|Flowers of Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis-acuta)|
|Last year's leaves of Sharp-lobed Hepatica.|