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The Spring Ephemerals of Webster Park.

May 12, 2012

The title of this post might be a bit puzzling, so let’s start with what a spring ephemeral is.  Ephemeral means short-lived;  an ephemeral plant is one with a short lifespan, typically 6 to 8 weeks.  Spring ephemeral plants bloom early before the leaves are thick on the trees and before the undergrowth gets too heavy, which cuts down on available sunlight reaching the forest floor.  These plants specialize in blooming before other plants block out the available light.  Spring ephemerals are often quite interesting and colorful plants, and they are worth a special look during this season.

Webster Park is a unique place.  It’s a small 1.4 acre wooded lot with a narrow stream in a Columbus Ohio neighborhood called Northmoor, more of a small nature preserve than a traditional park.  I’ve been visiting there since the end of February to observe its rich crop of spring ephemeral wildflowers.  This is one of the best places in the city to see such plants.  On one of my visits, a pleasant and talkative lady who was out walking her dog told me the story behind the park.  It was donated to the city in the past by a landowner who did not want the land developed- the city was to leave it as a natural area if they accepted ownership (this may have been developer Charles Johnson, who also donated nearby Northmoor Park to the city).  There is a local organization called The Friends of Webster Park who occasionally pick up trash and weed out invasive plants in the park.  It’s encouraging to see a natural area treated so well by neighborhood residents.

The neighborhood around the park is quite nice- lots of landscaping and gardening is the norm.

The park itself is bordered by narrow residential lanes.

February through May, here’s the park going through some changes.

As you can see, the park starts out with plenty of sunlight and ends up with lots of foliage soaking up the sun.  Here’s some of the ephemerals that took advantage of the sunlight while they could.

Spring Ephemerals (in order of appearance)


Winter Aconite

This plant was especially brilliant for a while- the second image shows what it turned into, seed pods replacing blooms.

Siberian Squill

Harbinger of Spring

This flower in particular came and went fast- I don’t think I saw it for more than a couple of weeks.

Lesser Celandine

Spring Beauties

Cutleaf Toothwort

Virginia Bluebells

Rue Anemone

Yellow Trout-Lilly

Perhaps my favorite wildflower at this park.  I didn’t see it anywhere else.  Very distinctive!  Insects loved it.  Note its changing life-cycle over the weeks that I photographed it.

Squirrel Corn

Sessile Trillium

These interesting flowers never unfold- their petals stay clasped around the rest of the flower.

Star of Bethlehem

Spring ephemerals make up for their shorter flowering periods with an intense florescence of beauty.  What started at the end of February finishes in May with the appearance of dense foliage, which limits the available sunlight.  Late spring non-ephemeral species move in, such as Garlic Mustard, Wild Geranium and Waterleaf.  It’s very enjoyable watching this swift cycle taking place.  Nothing cures a restless late winter like the appearance of such blooms, and nature’s inventiveness knows no bounds.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2012 12:26 am

    Their short lifespan makes them all the more beautiful.

  2. May 13, 2012 1:07 am

    The photos became much greener as the months went by. 🙂 Some of those flowers are so tiny, but there are usually a lot of them providing a mass of color. Have to catch them quick, before they are gone. Thanks for sharing yours with us.

  3. May 13, 2012 1:34 am

    Very nice job of capturing this life cycle! It is interesting to me to see the plants in that procession, most of which we don’t have here.

  4. May 13, 2012 8:21 am

    Lovely photos of some beautiful wild flowers – I especially love the progression of the woodland floor. It takes knowledge and dedication to be there with a camera when each plant is at its best!

  5. May 13, 2012 9:07 am

    What a lovely and well-planned journal of the spring ephemerals in Ohio!

  6. May 13, 2012 9:41 am

    All are very nice. I particularly like the trout lilies. Thanks for the pretty spring flowers.

  7. May 13, 2012 10:55 pm

    The yellow trout lilies – they stand out!

  8. sandy permalink
    May 14, 2012 1:55 pm

    What a nice selection of flowers! We have a few of them here.

  9. May 14, 2012 2:01 pm

    I think I saw most, but certainly not all of those. I’m not sure if we have sessile trilliums here-I’ve never seen one. Excellent post!

  10. May 14, 2012 4:55 pm

    Lovely photos, especially the trout lilies.

  11. May 14, 2012 7:05 pm

    So do you tent camp so you can document all this Tracey??Just askin’! 😉 Margie

    • May 18, 2012 8:09 pm

      Almost, Margie! 😀 I was there a dozen times between the end of February and now, it’s a nice patch of woods though!

  12. May 15, 2012 2:37 am

    Beautiful photographs, I love such climates. I am greeting

  13. May 16, 2012 7:04 am

    Hi. It is fun to take a virtual walk through the area! We went for a hike last weekend and found carpets of Trout-lilies. Their mottled foliage makes them look quite strange. I love their flowers. Jane

  14. May 17, 2012 8:37 am

    Great pictures–what a lovely park!

  15. May 18, 2012 7:38 am

    Once again, you helped me identify a few of the flowers I’ve seen around here over the past few weeks. Thank you.

    Beautiful photos, as always. I will have to check out this park the next time I’m in Columbus.

  16. May 18, 2012 7:55 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful comments everyone! 🙂


  1. Spring Ephemerals of Ohio: Spring Beauty. | Seasons Flow
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