The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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The Smile of Spring


This year spring began unusually early, which meant that even in March there was less and less snow each day and the first flowers appeared on the thawed ground. At first, there were not so many of them. Early flowers always behave like this: first one or two flowers emerge and that’s it, and only later their less decisive “brothers” follow them. Photos >>>

After the warm and sunny March, April seems to us a little too cool, though there have been no real colds. The absence of morning frosts, the abundance of the sun and the lengthening days were enough for nature to continue its awakening. More and more green sprouts have been breaking through last year’s foliage and more and more flowers could be seen.

Early flowers are amazing plants that adapted for blossoming when there is not a single leaf on the trees in the woods and every warm ray of sun reaches all the way to the ground. These flowers are “hasty” – they appear right after the snow melts and develop very quickly, in spite of the cool spring weather. A week or two later they are already in bloom, and two or three more weeks later they have fruit with seeds.

At our estate, about a dozen such plants are in bloom this time of year, with the most well-known of them being the Siverian squill (often called snowdrop). This tender blue flower is a unique plant for our estate. It is included in the Tula Region Red List, but the story of its appearance at Yasnaya Polyana is even more interesting. This story began over 150 years ago. 

When Tolstoy’s young wife Sophia came to Yasnaya Polyana in 1862, she decided to lay out flowerbeds in front of the house. She planted a lot of various beautiful flowers, but squills were among the first ones. They have long since crossed the borders of those flowerbeds. And now they form a gorgeous carpet in front of the Tolstoy House. But squills grow in the central part of the estate, and what is happening away from it?

The first thing that catches your eye when you’re walking on the estate’s paths is the abundance of anemones. We have two kind of anemones here, and one of them – the wood anemone – is on the Tula Region Red List. One more species of early flowers of our estate which is in the Red List is the liverwort. Its name comes from the usual form of its leaves that somewhat resemble the shape of the liver. This time of year, the crysosplenium and the lungwort are also blooming at the estate, and European wild ginger can be found in the darkest and wettest areas of the forest. Sometimes one more early flower – the ficaria - is blooming near the wild ginger. People often confuse their names, but in fact the plants look very different, and if you only get it right once you’ll never confuse them again. It’s especially difficult to confuse the ficaria’s bright yellow glossy flowers that resemble a lily with the humble slightly puberulous  flowers of the wild ginger, brown on the outside and dark-red inside.

Yellow and blue, dark-red and pure white, these first flowers make us happy. Walking on forest paths, everybody would want to take a little bunch of flowers home. But, please, don‘t do that. These flowers are so charming, but they are also very tender and can‘t stand the slightest lack of moisture. Some half an hour later, the picked flowers would become limp and wouldn’t make anybody happy anymore.

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