Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) is said to have heralded spring to the winter-weary Pilgrims in 1621 and thus is known as “Mayflower” by many. (It is also the Massachusetts state flower.) Creeping along the ground where the soil is typically quite acidic are Trailing Arbutus’s hairy, woody stems bearing evergreen, aromatic leaves that are present year round. Only in the early spring are we treated to its fragrant pink flowers, often nestled under these leathery leaves. Abundant nectar is found by overwintering bumblebee queens that are attracted to Trailing Arbutus’s indescribably delicate and sweet-smelling scent.
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Creeping snowberry’s name says it all. This perennial plant can be found growing in acidic soil, creeping along the forest floor, sometimes forming an expansive carpet of greenery. Tucked amongst its tiny leaves this time of year are snow-white berries which developed from greenish-white flowers. Both the leaves and the berries smell mildly like wintergreen. Creeping snowberry belongs in the Heath family, along with blueberries, huckleberries and cranberries. In fact, other than the bristles on the underside of its leaves, the leaves of creeping snowberry could easily be mistaken for small cranberry. The fruit is actually edible (it also tastes a bit like winterberry), but you will have to compete with deer, hares, grouse, robins and bears for it.