Thursday, May 12, 2022

Spring Beauties of the Forest Floor

trout lillies in springHave you spotted some of the first wildflowers in the forest? Late April into early May is when the famously fleeting flowers we call the spring ephemerals bloom – but only for a brief period of time! Known for bringing the first signs of the season to the forest floor, this group of perennials has only a short window of time to grow, flower, be pollinated, and produce seeds before the towering trees above them leaf out and steal their access to sunlight.

Beyond being beautiful, spring ephemerals are a source of nectar and pollen for many pollinators in a time when food is scarce. In return, pollinators help the plants reproduce and some (like ants) also spread their seeds, inadvertently helping to plant the next generation.

Just a few of the species you may spot include bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), trout lily (Erythronium americanum), red trillium (Trillium erectum), and spring beauty (Claytonia virginica). Many of these flowers are protected species, meaning it is illegal to pick or trample them. If you notice any in your yard, enjoy their brief beauty with only your eyes and camera.

Pictured: A mixed patch of spring ephemerals including trout lily (yellow flower) and spring beauty (pink flower).

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.




4 Responses

  1. Phil Fitzpatrick says:

    My walk at the Paul Smith’s VIC found nothing blooming and almost nothing up.

    Here in my Onchiota backyard the red trillium is ready to pop.

    • Boreas says:

      Around my place they usually arrive with the black flies.

      • Phil Fitzpatrick says:

        Hi there, hope you are well.

        Strangely, we got blackflies ten days ago. They stared biting a few days later, I expect this crop to die off when the 80’s leave,

  2. Worth Gretter says:

    I was thrilled to see a few trout lily flowers this spring, but wondered why I had so many plants and so few flowers. It turns out (per Wikipedia) that trout lilies mostly propagate with stems that produce new bulbs in the soil, so flowers are not their main method of spreading. In fact, Wikipedia quotes a couple of studies that say only 0.5% of the plants produce flowers — 1 in 200!
    In a way, the rarity of the flowers adds to the excitement of seeing them. With three big patches of trout lilies near my house, I saw exactly 8 flowers this year!

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