Spring Ephemerals Put Winter Behind You

by Peter Gordon, Elachee Nature Science Center Director of Education

Here in north Georgia, the beautiful eruption of spring ephemeral wildflowers is a primary reason this is a popular season.

Ephemeral wildflowers only bloom for a brief time, usually starting in March, lasting through mid-April. These flowers, in a sense, are racing against the coming shade of the forest tree canopy. Ephemeral wildflowers bloom, are pollinated and set and disperse seed before the leaves reappear on deciduous trees. They then disappear until their amazing emergence again next year.

Be sure to take the opportunity to recognize their appearance and beauty during the short time they are here! If you have a patch of mixed hardwood forest on your property, do a little botanizing to see if you discover your own populations of spring ephemerals. If you can’t find any in your area, plan a trip to hike Elachee’s trails to see the amazing diversity of ephemeral wildflowers the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve has to offer.

The following are some of Elachee’s favorite ephemerals.

Toadshade Trillium in bloom along the hiking trails of Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve.

Toadshade Trillium (Trillium cuneatum) is the most common of the Piedmont trillium species. Each plant has three mottled green leaves with a stem-less dark red flower on top. Native Americans used this plant to aid in childbirth.

The daisy-white flower of the Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and its Rorschach diagram-like leaf is a favorite sign of spring. Native Americans used the pulpy bloody root for dye and medicinal reasons. The plant is also an indicator of rich, “sweet” soils.

The parasol leaves of Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) erupt from the ground in patches. The stem of the female plants will fork, and a beautiful white flower will dangle. Once pollinated, the fruit for which the plant is named will form. Some parts of its rhizome produce chemicals that are a part of anti-cancer medicines used today.

Plan Your Visit to Elachee Nature Science Center or learn more at elachee.org. For more information about wild flowers or any natural history topic, please call us at Elachee at (770) 535-1976. We will be glad to hear from you.