Like a creamy white plume, the flowers of the false spikenard emit a delicate scent in the spring woods. The. tall spike bends in an arc beneath the oaks. False spikenard is one of the mid-spring flowers of Illinois, one which often carries its bloom well past mid-May when the warblers are at their height of abundance and summer is just over the horizon.
Smilacina racemosa ( L.) Desf.
False spikenard grows with a degree of elegance not found in all plants; it is in its character to hold its glossy, ribbed, bright green leaves sharply at angles, alternately on the stem, with the single plume of flowers at the top of the stem. It neither branches nor varies from this plan. Usually the creeping rootstocks send up many plants so that false spikenard, like the false Solomon's seal, grows well accompanied by its own kind.
May. The leaves have come on the oaks and shagbarks and the shade grows deeper in the woods. The last of the morels spring up in the moist sandy soil; a day or two of heat and they are finished. The redbuds are out of bloom; so are the wild crabs and plums; the breath of June is on the land and the. time of small, concise woods flowers is quickly passing.
But beneath the arching stems of the false spikenard the Kentucky warbler may have built a nest of grass wreathed around in a cup, and there are five russet-speckled eggs. When at last the stamen-filled flower head of the spikenard falls away and lets petals and stamens scatter into the nest and on the ground, summer at last is here and the spikenard fruits are. developing. By late summer and early autumn the little berries are translucent red or speckled white and red. By October they are clear carmine fruits which the robins eat, and which, perhaps, the last migrating Kentucky warbler pauses a moment to pluck and eat before going on to the south.