April showers bring mayflowers. Sometimes in May… sometimes in April.
It’s raining today which is good news for all things green and growing. Mayflowers (aka trailing arbutus ~ Epigaea repens) are among the earliest native blooms to appear in Nova Scotia. Half-hidden on the edge of the woods, their leathery leaves may look ragged and browned in spots, but the flowers are nonetheless fresh and pristine. Their petals fade from light pink to white as spring progresses.
Mayflowers enjoy the moist, acidic environments that are typically found near bogs. They are also shy plants, with a preference for shade.
Over a century ago mayflowers were designated the floral emblem of Nova Scotia. Found throughout most of eastern North America, this native evergreen plant is now considered an endangered species in Florida and vulnerable in New York.
Unbeknownst to many gardeners who unsuccessfully try to transplant them, the roots of mayflowers have a secret relationship with fungus. In this mutually beneficial liaison (also known as a mycorrhizal association), fungi gain direct access to carbohydrates through the roots of the mayflower. At the same time, the fungus makes the mayflower more resistant to disease and drought.
In the language of flowers, mayflowers mean welcome. Welcome to Nova Scotia. Welcome to spring.
The image of mayflowers at top left was scanned from a postcard I purchased at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History over two decades ago. I photographed the mayflowers just a short walk from the bottom of Flandrum Hill Road last week.