Mar 19 2013

Mystery Flora: A Happy Yellow Spray

Place barely goes to sleep for winter and now it’s up for spring. To be fair, it has been a mild winter even for Seattle, which has winters so milquetoast it panics when two snowflakes stick to the road. Nothing in the Puget Lowlands wastes any time. I found little seedlings happily growing in early January, and now the instant winter’s back is turned, here come the flowering trees.

These lovely, happy little yellow flowers were in full bloom by the beginning of March. There’s nothing quite so uplifting as walking through still mostly-dead vegetation, and suddenly coming upon this spray of yellow blooms reaching up to a brilliant blue sky.

Mystery Flower I

Mystery Flower I

Please tell me it’s not invasive. Please oh please. Just this once, let me have joy in something that’s not a horrible invasive species.

Mystery Flower II

Mystery Flower II

It is, isn’t it? I like it, it’s pretty, therefore invasive. Sigh. The last shred of hope I have is that it’s a little thickety for an ornamental tree. Not that that means anything.

Mystery Flower III

Mystery Flower III

I love this spot on North Creek. There’s a pond on one side, and commercial buildings on the other, but the buildings don’t bother you because the narrow trail is lined with all sorts of trees, and their branches dip and arch overhead, and you sort of feel like you’re in some sort of wild secret garden.

Mystery Flower IV

Mystery Flower IV

I spent what was probably an inordinate amount of time there, grinning like someone who’d just discovered the good shrooms, enjoying sunshine and blue skies and lovely little yellow flowers. In the Pacific Northwest, you seize the opportunity when it comes, because it’s gone in a flash.

Mystery Flower V

Mystery Flower V

Rather like these. I’ve not known many trees that flower for long, and I doubt these will still be in bloom when I get back. A lot like life, in that respect: enjoy it fully while it lasts, because it doesn’t ever last long enough. But while it does, there are these moments.

Mystery Flower VI

Mystery Flower VI

And they’re beautiful.


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  1. 1

    I’m no expert, but I strongly suspect one of the late winter/early spring species of Witch-Hazel. So there’s also a good chance that it’s a native American.

    Unfortunately, I can’t find an online recording of Tom Gala’s wonderful song “Witch-hazel.” The chorus goes something like this:

    I’m looking at a witch-hazel blooming in a garden.
    Bright yellow flowers in the middle of winter time.
    And I tell my heart, “Be strong,
    Like the witch-hazel flower, and you will not be troubled
    By this dark and fearful time.”

  2. 2

    Cornelian cherry?, aka Cornus mas?
    It doesn’t seem to be native, but it has won horticultural awards… Also, it may be a different species but the same plant. It’s very pretty and just what is needed in early spring – a dash of very bright colour to go with the sun.
    (This is just a guess?)

  3. 3

    I saw “yellow” in the title and immediately thought “Scotch Broom. Please let it NOT be Scotch broom.” Thank goodness it isn’t. My other first thought was Forsythia, which is bright yellow and blooms at this time. I don’t think that’s what this is, however.

  4. 4
    Gregory in Seattle

    I agree with chezjake about it being witch hazel, one of the Hamamelis species. Go back in a week or two and look at the flowers in full bloom; that will be your tell.

    Not native, but not considered an invasive species, either.

  5. 5

    Not witch hazel. I think rq has it right with Cornus mas.

  6. 6

    rq is correct – Cornus mas.

  7. 7
    Gregory in Seattle

    Cornus? The leaves do not look right.

  8. 8
    Gregory in Seattle

    Oops, sorry. From the picture, Cornus has simple leaves. Dana’s pictures clearly show compound leaves.

  9. 9

    I’d go with Cornus too. The leaves are from a Rubus growing with it. Cornus mas seems the most likely bet but Cornus officinalis is very similar and I’m not sure how you determine the difference from just the flowering shoot.

  10. 10

    Gregory–I think you’re looking at some Rubus that’s mixed in. I don’t see any leaves on the flowering mystery plant.

  11. 11
    Gregory in Seattle

    Ah, ok. I didn’t notice that the branches with leaves were growing in a different direction.

    1. 11.1

      It’s actually yoga-ninja tree. It grows everything in a different direction. ;)

  12. 12

    It’s definitely not forsythia.

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