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First observed on our North American continent in Nova Scotia in 1979, Europe’s large yellow underwing moth (Noctua pronuba) has sure come a long way to one day be roused from its cover of soft brown forewings and awkwardly rise in surprising orange flutter before an approaching mower here in southeastern Pennsylvania.

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John Bartram introduced Europe’s most widely spread maple tree to Philadelphia in the 1750s, and it’s probably best known for some seasonal features.

In summer, the Norway maple casts a deep leafy shade on the ground.

And kids like to peel open its ripening green samaras, pasting the sticky sides to their noses.

In late fall, the tree’s foliage is brilliant yellow.

And its browning seed pods helicopter down in copious amounts, seeming to fill every surrounding inch and crack of ground.

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Now, in spring, with so many other trees in bloom, it can be easy to overlook the Norway maple’s green inflorescence.

Fortunately a gray squirrel happens along, nibbles off a twig, and lets it fall to the ground.

Then we get a better look at the clustered flowers, resting on the tree’s surfacing roots, amid the refuse of prior seasons.

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Native to Europe, snowdrops (Galanthus) suddenly appear on the loamy banks of Little Crum Creek.

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But how?

Perhaps, years ago, someone tossed the hearty bulbs over a fence. Maybe a neighboring garden washed downstream.  I have even read that ants can carry the seeds.

Certainly no one has gardened this ground for 25 years. 

Yet here are the snowdrops, not only free of cultivation or protection but perennially flourishing on their own each February and March.

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These early bloomers battle ivy and debris to beat the soon-smothering lesser celandine and towering knotweed. 

They even penetrate lingering snow to reach sunlight. 

Fortunately, in the process, deer find them distasteful.

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Undisturbed, these crowded clumps of determined scapes, cradling tightly furled flowers in protective spathes, reach just inches above the leafy litter before each bundle of tepals pops free to bloom in pendulous florescence, one by one.

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No doubt these impressive little plants made their way here from the careful cultivation of a domestic garden.

But now they seem just fine on their own, according to their nature, and wherever they may go.

Though not native, they are “naturalized.”

What’s to keep them, finally, from being “wild”?

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