Our local parks and preserves are coming to life. And a lot of it is happening on the forest floor. Spring beauties are re-emerging in abundance in many places. (Photos: CCP/Doherty)

A relatively cool April is making some of the Chesapeake magic last! And the watershed’s nine million acres of protected lands provide places for it to flourish, oftentimes quite nearby.

In last ten days (depending on your latitude in the watershed!), the forest floor has begun its annual reawakening. The earliest native spring wildflowers are out at our feet.

Spring beauties (Claytonia virginica), are here, almost always among the first, though long after the Skunk Cabbage of February and March.

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) have been creating vibrant rolling carpets of blue in some parks for two weeks or more. And that odd fellow Jack is beginning to stand up to preach for a while — Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphylum). Even some of the fungi are beginning to appear, some, like spring morels (genus Morchella), incredibly tasty to eat if you know how to identify your mushrooms.

Looking down and finding a surprise of beauty at your feet is one of the marvels of being outdoors, especially in spring. Our time outside is precious, now more than ever. The places that preserve the magic and provide it for all of us are beyond priceless.

Virginia bluebells