It’s the time of the year to welcome back wildflowers! Winter has been vanquished, and the woods are sprinkled with blooms once more by the middle of spring. Not that I don’t greatly enjoy posting about birds, but it’s good to see flowering blooms once more!
The early blooms often are the so-called spring ephemerals:
Spring ephemeral describes a life habit of perennial woodland wildflowers which develop aerial parts (i.e. stems, leaves, and flowers) of the plant early each spring and then quickly bloom, and produce seed. The leaves often wither leaving only underground structures (i.e. roots, rhizomes, and bulbs) for the remainder of the year. This strategy is very common in herbaceous communities of deciduous forests as it allows small herbaceous plants to take advantage of the high levels of sunlight reaching the forest floor prior to formation of a canopy by woody plants. Examples include: spring beauties, trilliums, and harbinger of spring.
Two years ago, I posted about the spring ephemerals of Webster Park– this is a good overview of how early woodland flowers bloom before the leaves unfurl and shut out much of the sunlight by late spring. I’ve also previously compiled photo collections of the wildflowers I’ve seen, such as April wildflowers in Ohio. This time around, I thought it would be interesting to highlight the occasional wildflower species once again. And today, I’m starting off with one that almost defines spring.
In eastern North America, April and May brings a very familiar pink and white bloom to woodlands and semi-shady lawns. To many people, its arrival practically means ‘spring is truly here’.
This flower is the aptly-named Spring Beauty. Its medium-sized 5-petal flowers range in color from pink to white, but they always have pink veins in the petals. Each flower blooms for 3 days, so its not surprising that multiple flowers could be found on each plant, ready to do their duty in attracting insects.
Also notable are the pair of long thin leaves with a single vein running up the middle of the leaf.
Colonies of these plants often grow in favorable areas- this can cause a sprinkling of handsome blooms throughout woods and lawn edges. This is a numerous wildflower in mid-to-late spring.
Even people with little inclination towards wildflowers notice these attractive plants, coming as they do after winter’s barren cold has retreated. Such a sight can lift the spirit in the most dedicated indoors inhabitant!
These flowers have a pleasant scent, though since their height is typically from 3 to 6 inches, you may have to lay down in the grass among them to notice. That’s not a bad idea, really.
In the past, some Native American tribes ate the roots of Spring Beauty, preparing them similarly to potatoes. They apparently taste like chestnuts, and reportedly the whole plant is edible. Raw roots supposedly would prevent conception, and powdered roots were given to children to treat convulsions.
This attractive wildflower is probably the most abundant spring ephemeral. Others have to be searched for, but if you want to enjoy the glories of spring, most any woodland or grassy lawn near some trees will do to find these blooms. This flower was truly made for spring.
After a hard winter, this is just what we need to see!