Spring Ephemerals

Last week, I was fortunate enough to travel to Kentucky for work. Other than a brief visit to Mammoth Caves, back in 2005, Kentucky is a new place for me. Most of my time was spent working, but since this work was outside, I was able to enjoy the SPRING weather. Of course, “spring weather” means that it rained. Thank goodness for boots.


Where I live in Buffalo, NY, spring is a slower to arrive. The skunk cabbage at Great Baehre Swamp are blooming, the red maple flowers are falling, and our snowdrops are making an appearance, but the beautiful, wonderful spring ephemeral wildflowers are not on display yet. In Kentucky, these very special plants were already visible throughout the meadows and woodlands.

There is really no other feeling like the one that I get when seeing woodland wildflowers for the first time each year. This feeling is a mixture of exitement, gratitude, and relief. The relief comes because spring ephemeral wildflowers are not as common as they once were. The bluets (Houstonia sp.) below were growing in someone’s mowed lawn, but with American’s obsession with uniform, green, grass-only lawns, herbicide use makes such finds rare. Other woodland species are threatened by over population of deer and by soil disturbance from poor forest management.DSCN5613I love the simplicty of bluet flowers. Each bloom has four petals, characteristic of the coffee family (Rubiaceae), and is pale blue-purple with a bright yellow center. (I designed a hat based on these flowers in 2013. Seeing them makes me want to knit a few more!)

There was also Carolina spring beauty (Claytonia caroliana), with its delicate pink lines…DSCN5617 DSCN5618

toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)DSCN5626

rue anemone and its neat tulip-shaped leaves…DSCN5683

adorable Dutchman’s breechesDSCN5714

bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) (This may be my favorite flower of all. I love the smooth white petals, I love the intricate leaves, I love that they bloom for just one or two days, I love remembering the first time that saw this flower on the Appalachian Trail in 2009)…  DSCN5681    DSCN5687

and, of course, the star of most spring ephemeral shows, trillium…DSCN5629This one is toadshade trillium or sessile trillium (Trillium sessile).

Back in Buffalo, we still have few weeks before our spring ephemeral displays are at their peak, but the sun is making frequent appearances, and the air smells like wet soil. They are coming.


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