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