Two plants currently in bloom are Leatherleaf Mahonia (Mahonia bealei) and Alder. Mahonia is a Chinese shrub with thick, superficially, holly-like leaves and can been found at the Wetlands Overlook near the Lemur House. Mahonia, with its small yellow-green flowers, typically blooms in winter.
The alder is on the north side of the Wetlands. It’s a woody shrub and can be found near streams, ponds, and lakes throughout our area. It’s one of the earliest blooming trees or shrubs and has both male and female flowers (images at left). The fruit look very much like tiny pine cones. Pictured is last year’s fruit which is still on the plant.
The maples and elms on the Explore the Wild/Catch the Wind Loop are close behind. The final day of this period (2/15) brought a return to more seasonal temperatures which may slow the process some. The maples and elms will probably be fine but some trees and shrubs coaxed into blooming early by the warm weather may not fare so well. If they come into full bloom too early and another freeze descends upon us, as it no doubt will, the flowers may die. No flowers means no seeds or fruit later in the year.