Discreet beauties

Two-leaved mitrewort (Mitella diphylla)
Credit: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Stéphane Bailleul)
Two-leaved mitrewort (Mitella diphylla)
  • Two-leaved mitrewort (Mitella diphylla)
  • Two-leaved mitrewort (Mitella diphylla)
  • Two-leaved mitrewort (Mitella diphylla)
  • Heart-leaved foamflower  (Tiarella cordifolia)
Discreet beauties

Unlike with most ornamental plants, selected for their majestic or brightly-colored blooms, the beauty of certain native species expresses itself in the details of a tiny flower, of colorful fruit or graceful foliage. Here are two spring species with discreet little white flowers that deserve our attention.

The two-leaved miterwort

The ultimate in delicacy is revealed under a magnifying glass, when we observe the fine details of the blooms belonging to the two-leaved miterwort (Mitella diphylla). It’s one of those well-hidden little gems that you might have come across along a forest trail without it really piquing your curiosity. In May it adorns itself with a succession of little white flowers. The petals are so finely chiseled – a rarity in flowers – that they’re reminiscent of lace or small snowflakes.

The plant possesses two leaves positioned face to face under its delicate floral inflorescences. The seeds are contained in capsules that form small cups resembling miters (ceremonial headdress), whence its common name. Seeds become black when ripe, and are ejected when raindrops hit their cups.

The two-leaved miterwort is a slow-growing species that prefers woods that are cool and that get some sun in the spring. It forms small colonies through its rhizomes and its seedlings. Its tiny flowers (3 to 4 mm) produce both pollen and nectar, an early-season food source for smaller flies and bees.

The heart-leaved foamflower

The flowering stem of the heart-leaved foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) is a bit bigger than the delicate miterwort’s. Its little star-shaped flowers, measuring barely more than 5 to 6 mm in diameter, appear in the spring. White, sometimes tinged with pink, they bear 10 long stamens, which give them an appearance of lightness. The anthers – which contain the pollen – are generally yellow. However, some plants, rarer ones, exhibit reddish-brown ones. The flower clusters rise above a foliage whose shape vaguely calls to mind the outline of maple leaves.

In the woods, the heart-leaved foamflower forms small colonies thanks to its stolons and its rhizomes. The blooms attract small flies as well as bees and butterflies.

The next time you venture into the forest, slow down and look around you. With a magnifying glass your may discover the little marvels that our flora has set aside for you.

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