28 March 2008
Our provincial flower: The Mayflower
Larry over at Growing Up suggested that maybe bloggers would like to take part in writing a meme about their provincial, state, or national flower. He kicked off the meme with a nice post about the provincial flower of Saskatchewan (that's one of our Canadian provinces, for those of you from other parts of the world). Since it's snowing here yet again, I thought this would be a perfect project to embark upon, and hope you'll all join in too.
Nova Scotia's provincial flower is the trailing arbutus, more commonly known as the mayflower. A member of the Ericaceae or heath family, its botanical name is Epigaea repens, and it's related to such popular plants as blueberries and cranberries (Vaccinium, various species), rhododendrons and azaleas (Rhododendron), Bog rosemary (Andromeda), and wintergreen (Gaultheria), not to mention of course heaths and heathers (Erica & Calluna). Ericaceous plants like acid soil, which is commonly found throughout much of Atlantic Canada, and certainly here in Nova Scotia. Mayflower is a subshrub, creeping along the ground in woodlands, (both conifer and hardwood), with woody stems and leathery, hairy leaves. Apparently it ranges as far west as Saskatchewan, and as far south as Florida, although it is sparse in many regions and listed as endangered or vulnerable in several American states.
Although we call it mayflower, it usually starts blooming in April here in NS, although bloom time can vary from one county to the next. I have seen it as early as March on the south shore, but around my county it's usually mid-to-late April before the flowers come along. Flower colour can be white, tinged with pink, or very pink, and the flowers are edible too. The fragrance is wonderful, sweet without being cloying, and it too varies in strength, possibly connected to the type of soil where it's found growing.
Despite being related to all those ericaceous cousins mentioned above that we do use in gardening, the slow-growing trailing arbutus doesn't like to be transplanted, and I do not know of anyone who has it growing in their garden, nor any reputable nursery around here that offers it for sale. I've never tried it, because though our soil is acidic, it's also clayey and mayflowers demand humus-rich sandy soil that drains well, preferably around oaks or pines. To me it's a plant to enjoy where it's growing in its natural habitat, to visit and smell and photograph and cherish--and leave ALONE. At one time, mayflowers came close to being exterminated in the New England states because greedy street vendors would tear the plants up to sell posies of flowers. The mayflower is also the state flower of Massachusetts, where apparently it's illegal to pick the plants. We may need to enact similar legislation here, because I've seen people selling bundles of mayflowers in the spring at farmers' markets, and this means that wild patches are being seriously damaged.
So there's a little look at a darling of spring woodlands, Nova Scotia's provincial flower, the trailing arbutus or mayflower. Maybe within a month or so I'll have photos from this year's flowers. As I've said before...hope springs eternal, even though it's snowing again.