We have also watched many types of fern unfold from fiddle-head to expanded frond. Sensitive fern and New York fern joined the overwintering fronds of evergreen wood fern and Christmas fern, and both of these species began to grow their new fronds for the season. Large, circular bare patches between the trees filled in with thin fern stalks that will branch and thicken into a continuous, green cover over the coming weeks.
Mayapple is very abundant along almost all of the park trails. The distinctive "parasol" plant has thick, shiny green leaves and a partially hidden, nodding white flower. This perennial plant grows from expanding rhizomes and often forms large, interconnected patches of dozens to hundreds of genetically identical plants. Mayapple relies on soil fungi (mycorrhizae) to assist their uptake of soil nutrients. Competition with plants that inhibit these soil fungi (like garlic mustard) can be very harmful to mayapple. Reproduction in mayapple is via both vegetative growth (the expanding rhizomes) and via sexual reproduction (flowers that form fruit after pollination). There is a steep physiological cost involved in making flowers and fruit, and this cost can significantly drain the energy reserves from the colonial rhizome. This energy loss may even be sufficient to kill the large, clonal colony. Dispersal, though, of the species via the fruit, and the genetic mixing and variation that arises from sexual reproduction are advantages well paid for by this stress. In the masses of clonal mayapple along the park trails no more than 20 or 30% of the plants had the double leaf stalks with the forming flowers. The colonies seem to hedging their reproductive bets a bit!