Ah, spring, the season of new and renewed life! It’s a time when many nature lovers turn their eyes skyward to spot migrating birds as signs of the season. Others, however, head for the woods and look to the ground. They seek the “spring ephemerals,” March and April wildflowers that pop up, bloom, fruit, and disappear before most of the trees have unfurled their leaves.
Ephemerals like bloodroot, trout-lily, trillium, anemone, and spring-beauty have to deal with wintry winds, frosty nights, even snow and ice. But there are benefits to their lifestyle. The ground is wet with snow melt and the trees have not yet begun to compete for the water. Plenty of nutrients from last year’s dead leaves have leached into the soil. And there’s much light because tree leaves have yet to shade the forest floor.
Unfortunately, overpopulating deer, ravenous after a long winter, find most ephemerals irresistible. And a plant eaten soon after it sprouts cannot make and store food in its roots so it can reappear next year, and cannot produce seeds for future generations.
Thus, in many woods, ephemerals have become invisibles.