By far one of my most favoured wildflowers, mayflower ((Epigaea repens) is Nova Scotia’s floral emblem and was selected to be so in 1901. Native to the East coast of North America, early European settlers called it mayflower because it was one of the first flowers of spring. Also known as trailing arbutus, this lovely early spring flowerer is a low-growing, trailing woody evergreen shrub associated with the acid soils so common beneath evergreens and therefore, it is abundant and common in Cape Breton. A denizen of shady places, mayflower is almost hidden by grasses and forest litter and flowers often appear when snow is still on the ground. Forming large mats of dark green foliage (its leaf arrangement is alternate), mayflower leaves are thick and leathery, becoming brownish in winter months but quickly brightening with the lengthening daylight of early spring.
Mayflower flowering season is relatively long as flowers are not produced all at once, but emerge over a period of several weeks. A lover of shady places, it is one of those lovely gems found along back country roads where little disturbance has taken place.
Because mayflower does not seed every year and because its roots are shallow, it is a fragile plant best left undisturbed.