The first wildflowers up in our woodlands are known as the spring ephemerals because they don’t last all that long. Their strategy is to to do it all–sprout, bloom, set seed, and store energy for next year–in that brief space of bright sunlight between when the warm spring sun heats the rich forest floor and the leaves on the tree close the canopy, casting the forest into shade for the remainder of the growing season.
Generally the first ephemeral to appear is Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis), usually a flower of the deep woods.
Hepatica is followed closely by a personal favorite, Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens). Look for it on warm roadside banks.
Then comes Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica), look close for the pink pinstripes on the petals.
The second “flush” of wildflowers includes Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), a member of the Poppy family that likes moist–but not wet–conditions.
Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) is a member of the Mustard family (note the cross-shaped four-petaled flower).
Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum), also known as Dog-tooth Violet, also prefers moist woods.
Early Saxifrage (Saxifraga virginensis) blooms along road cuts and exposed banks.
Look close to the ground to find the flowers of the Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) under the heart-shaped leaf.
We have two look-alike members of the Buttercup family: Rue Anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) and False Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum). The False Rue Anemone has five part flowers, while the Rue Anemone has up to ten. Additionally, the leaf of the False Rue Anemone looks somewhat like chervil or flatleaf parsley. The leaf of the Rue Anemone looks like some kind of weird green mitten.
Finally, there is Dutchmen’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), which often blooms in along the sides of our woods roads.
There will be more to come as the season progresses. Watch this space.