Spring Ephemerals Signal Changing of Seasons

by | Apr 2019

A splash of color from a spring ephemeral

Photo: Anne Marie Ruff

After the long months of winter, I eagerly await flowers and green trees. One of the first signs that something is happening is actually out of sight, way up at the top of the oak trees. The flowers that will turn into acorns (two years later!) appear even before the trees leaf out. Typically I see the delicate little pinkish red oak flowers on the forest floor once they have been shed. And for a brief time, while bare branches allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, a few spring woodland flowers will appear, rushing through their blooms before the trees that tower over them hoard the sunlight with fresh spring leaves.

These spring ephemeral flowers are neither big nor showy. But since nearly six months have passed since flowers have bloomed outside, these modest blossoms are a splashy bit of color in the otherwise brown woods. White flowers of blood root open against the backdrop of a single unfurling leaf; Dutchman’s breeches shimmy along a stem, like men’s trousers on a laundry line; woodland anemones seem to smile in white and shades of pink; and columbine shows off like a five-pointed firecracker in yellow and red. The Wolsfeld Woods or Wood-Rill Scientific and Natural Areas—or even the woods at the edge of a lawn, or the fringe of a parking lot—will sport these and a dozen other flowers to affirm that the riot of spring color will soon arrive.

Anne Marie Ruff is a writer, editor and environmentalist. She serves on the board of the Long Lake Waters Association, and has recently published her second novel, Beneath the Same Heaven


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