Anemone nemorsa (Wood Anemone)
Dicentra canadensis (Squirrel Corn)
Hydrastis canadensis (Gold Seal)
Sanguinaria canadensis 'Multiplex' (Double Bloodroot)
Anemonella thalictroides (Rue Anemone)
Aquilegia canadensis (Wild Columbine)
Asarum canadensis (Wild Ginger)
Trillium luteum (Yellow Toadshade)
Each spring in the eastern United States, for a few short weeks, beauty blankets the floor of our deciduous woodlands – the native wildflowers known as spring ephemerals. In the woods, before the deciduous trees leaf out to produce shade, the sun begins to warm the soil and triggers the emergence of spring ephemerals — unique wildflowers that have a short presence on the forest floor.
These perennial plants rapidly send up foliage, blossom, set seed, and disappear in a few weeks. Searching for these first wildflowers of the year is one of the highlights of the gardening year.
This white-flowering ephemeral seems to glow under the warm rays of the late winter sun. The two-inch wide, showy flowers have a prominent yellow center. Native Indians used its red roots for dye and war paint.
A delicate woodland perennial, Rue Anemone features pink or white blossoms rising above a whorl of dark-green, 3-parted leaves. The leaves are similar to those found on meadow rues.
A unique plant, Mayapple has two umbrella-like leaves and one white flower, which grows in the axil of the leaves (where the leaf stalk attaches to the stem). Mayapples are showy and colonize easily by rhizomes, forming clusters throughout the forest.
Another much loved white-flowering ephemeral, White Wake-Robin takes seven years to journey from seed to flower. The showy, three-petal blossoms of white, which eventually turn pink with age, rise above the forest floor on 12 to 15 inch single stems highlighted by three green, leaf-like bracts.
One of the first ephemerals to emerge, Liverwort is named such because its shiny leaves supposedly resemble that organ. A multitude of light blue to lavender one-inch wide flowers makes it easy to spot on the forest floor.
If your woodland rambles include floodplains, you may be fortunate to encounter colonies of Virginia bluebells. Its soft-magenta flower buds open to beautiful bell-shaped nodding clusters of blue flowers. It puts on a spectacular show when grown in masses.
Indigent to creek banks, the plant’s mottled leaves resemble the markings of brook trout. Golden-yellow bell-shaped flowers have long red stamens and recurved petals (petals that curve backward or inward). Large colonies of Trout Lily may be over 100 years old.
Another spring ephemeral with recurved petals, the five petals of the flower sweep back like the tail of a shooting star, which gives the plant its name. Native bees, the chief pollinators, must extract pollen by vibrating their bodies against the narrow tube, shaking the pollen out.
These plants are available for $6.95 to $8.95 for a large 2pt container.