I looked for harbinger-of-spring (Erigenia bulbosa, aka salt and pepper) in the Butler University woods but couldn’t find it yet. Some years it sticks flowers up through the snow around the last year’s decomposing tree leaves. I did, however, find the reliable early February bloomer whitlow grass (Draba verna).
This tiny mustard grows in a couple of places in sparse lawn on campus. It is a native of Europe that I have read was used to treat inflammation of the toes or toenail fungus, whitlow, in England. Maybe it was brought here intentionally. It is a winter annual, germinating and forming a rosette of leaves in the fall and flowering in the early spring, setting seed and dying. It persists through the summer as seed, starting the cycle again in the fall.
If you use a hand lens you can see the classic cruciform, or cross shaped arrangement of the 4 petals and two short, four long stamens found in the mustard family.
A speedwell was also blooming on Ground Hog Day this year in the warmth of the sunny base of the Science building at Butler University, Gallahue Hall.
Cool! Thanks for the little appetizers of the spring to come!