Sean Bradley, Writer
Greetings. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Sean Bradley and I’m a student and avid naturalist at La Salle. Throughout my time here, I’ve been documenting the species of plants and animals that call the university’s campus home. In a new series for the Collegian titled “Nature at La Salle,” I will showcase my findings in nature on campus throughout the seasons. For the series’ debut article, we will look at five, early spring flowers that you can find on campus in March and early April.
The first flower we’ll look at is the bright and cheerful daffodil. These hardy perennials are among the first flowers to bloom every year at the end of winter. Daffodils are members of the amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae) and grow from underground bulbs that store nutrients for the plants’ stems and flowers. The flowers are easily recognized by their central trumpet-shaped coronas that are surrounded by six floral leaves known as a perianth. Originally native to Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia and the Mediterranean, daffodils have been cultivated throughout history and are now found throughout the world. Today, there are about 13,000 distinct cultivars, coming in a variety of colors like white, yellow and orange. Here on campus, you can find daffodils blooming on a sunny day in the Hansen Quad.
Blooming around the same time as daffodils, hyacinths are another lovely, early spring flower that you can find on campus. Like daffodils, these perennials also grow from underground bulbs. Hyacinths are found in the family Asparagaceae (which includes asparagus), and each year they produce spikes of small, tubular flowers that grow from leafless stems in the center of four to six leaves. Known for their sweet fragrance, the flowers come in many colors, including blue, pink, purple and white, depending on the cultivar. Today, there are about 50 cultivars, which are all derived from the wild species, Hyacinthus orientalis, which is native to southwestern Asia and the Middle East. Here on campus, hyacinths can be found along the pathway towards the baseball field in the flower bed next to the lawn by the Union Building.
3. Snow Fountain Weeping Cherry
Another early spring flower that blooms every year on campus is the snow fountain weeping cherry blossom. Often regarded as one of the finest weeping cherry blossoms, these snow-white flowers emerge from pink buds and cover the tree’s bare, cascading branches. The result is a stunning display of white blossoms from gracefully swaying branches that give the tree a lovely, fountain-like appearance. Not only are the flowers visually pleasing to people, but they’re also a source of nectar for pollinators, such as butterflies. Like all cherries, snow fountain weeping cherries are found in the genus Prunus and the family Rosaceae (rose family). The snow fountain weeping cherry is a cultivar of a hybrid cherry tree, Prunus x subhirtella, which is a cross between two Japanese cherry species, P. incisa and P. itosakura. La Salle is fortunate to have two specimens to grace the campus, with one by the entrance next to College Hall and the other in the lawn by Holroyd Hall.
4. Saucer Magnolia
The saucer magnolia is another tree that produces pretty flowers each spring on campus. Like the snow fountain weeping cherry, the saucer magnolia, or Magnolia ×soulangeana is also a hybrid plant, with it being a cross between two Chinese magnolia species, Magnolia denudata and Magnolia liliiflora. The flowers start as fuzzy, green buds that eventually bloom into large, saucer-shaped flowers that come in shades of pink and white. While pretty, the flowers are also susceptible to late frosts, which unfortunately results in the flowers dying. But, in a good year with warm weather, you can find these beautiful flowers blooming by the benches near the grotto on the Hansen Quad.
5. Red Maple
Finally, the last flower that we’ll look at comes from one of our local, native trees, the red maple. While known for their brilliant, red fall foliage, red maples are one of the first native trees to bloom as temperatures warm in late winter and early spring. The flowers consist of tiny, hanging clusters of red blossoms that appear when the leaves form. Most trees bear either exclusively male or female flowers. Male flowers can be identified by their long stamens that extend beyond their petals and yellow pollen that covers the tips of their stamens. On the other hand, female flowers can be identified by their stigmas that extend past their petals to catch pollen from male flowers. Once pollinated, the female flowers produce double samaras, or winged seeds that eventually disperse before the leaves form and germinate into new trees. Red maples are quite common on campus and can be found in good numbers especially in the Hansen Quad and near St. Basil Court. On a sunny day, one can appreciate the bright red blossoms of the tree.
And that wraps up our look at early spring flowers on La Salle’s campus. As the weather gets warmer, there will be more flowers to find on campus. It’s been a pleasure sharing this article with you as I hope you enjoyed reading it. I look forward to hopefully writing more in the near future. Thank you.