Outdoors folks in the South spend a lot of time with downcast eyes. This isn’t out of shame or sadness. Knowing where you are stepping is of real importance. Besides the scaly or chitinous critters that might violently object to being trod on, there are other dangers, from stump holes and brambles to rusty wire and glass. There are prizes as well: arrowheads, coins, antique bottles, shed antlers, and more can fill the pocket or pack of the sharp-eyed observer.
As winter slides into spring, other tiny treasures reveal themselves to those who look. A particular favorite of mine is the bluet. This annual sports a quarter-inch 4-petal flower ranging from white through pale blue to purple. The books say it can grow 6-8 inches tall, but on mowed-but-weedy lawns or road shoulders they hug the ground. Last month I saw a few scattered around, like early evening stars on a green sky, but this week I enjoyed a regular Milky Way running along a field border.
Another flower catching my eye is the southern woodland violet. It’s easy to miss on an unmowed lawn, but the little pop of purple draws the gaze and makes you want to take a closer look.
There are others coming up these days, but the above two, beautiful but unassuming, are harbingers of the season for me. Always keep a watchful eye; you’ll be surprised what is going on around you.