Spring Ephemerals and Wildflowers at Landis

By Anne Donnelly

It’s mid-win­ter as I write, but the days are length­en­ing bit by bit, and the col­or­ful seed cat­a­logs are arriv­ing. Spring is in the air, and I love trudg­ing about on my snow­shoes, know­ing that under the snow dor­mant bulbs await. Spring ephemer­als and spring flow­ers in gen­er­al are a pow­er­ful incen­tive to vis­it Lan­dis dur­ing the sea­son of renewal.

Spring ephemer­als appear from snowmelt to leaf-out in the wood­lands. For sev­er­al rea­sons, they are rare and becom­ing rar­er. Most of them are slow grow­ing and do not spread read­i­ly. Just pick­ing the flow­ers for a bou­quet or step­ping on a plant may dam­age or kill it. Deer graze them, and high deer pop­u­la­tions have wiped out many wild­flow­ers. Inva­sives like gar­lic mus­tard out­com­pete the natives. I was lucky to have hiked with Ed Miller. If they were there, he’d find them! I was also for­tu­nate to have known Hol­ly Emmons when she had a SUNY class on prop­a­gat­ing wild­flow­ers, and some of those plants we prop­a­gat­ed flour­ish in my own wood­land garden.

Dutchman’s Breech­es, Squir­rel Corn, and Bleed­ing Heart (all Dicen­tra sp.) are all native, though I’ve nev­er found them in the wild. Unlike most ephemer­als, these plants trans­plant well. Nick Zabows­ki has glo­ri­ous Bleed­ing Heart avail­able at our spring sales. Spring Beau­ty (Clay­to­nia vir­gini­ana) is del­i­cate pink and white and read­i­ly found in Nan’s Fern Glen, as are Hepat­i­ca (Hepat­i­ca sp.) and Wild Leeks (Alli­um tric­oc­cum). I’ve also seen Rue Anemone (Anemonel­la thal­ic­troides) there. Trout Lily, or Dog­tooth Vio­let (Ery­thro­ni­um), with its nod­ding yel­low flower and dap­pled leaves rem­i­nis­cent of a brook trout, are some­times found through­out the woods in large patch­es, often with Tril­li­um (Tril­li­um). Bril­liant yel­low Marsh Marigolds or Cowslips (Caltha palus­tris) are abun­dant in the ditch­es at the bot­tom of the Glen and through­out the Native Plant Trail, thanks to Nan and Ed. They aren’t tech­ni­cal­ly spring ephemer­als, but they are spring flow­ers. Anoth­er is Skunk Cab­bage (Sym­plo­car­pus foetidus), a per­haps unlove­ly arum found in wood­land swamps, and its rel­a­tive Jack-in the-Pul­pit (Arisae­ma sp), both not, strict­ly speak­ing, ephemer­als, since the foliage per­sists past spring.

Addi­tion­al inter­est­ing wood­land flow­ers of ear­ly to mid-spring are Blood­root (San­guinar­ia canaden­sis), Goldthread (Cop­tis groen­landi­ca), and Wild Gin­ger (Asarum canadense). I’m par­tic­u­lar­ly fond of Woods pop­py or Celandine pop­py (Sty­lopho­rum diphyl­lum), with its lush lobed leaves and deep yel­low flow­ers. This native is eas­i­ly con­fused with Celandine (Che­li­do­nia majus), an inva­sive that looks near­ly iden­ti­cal. Celandine spreads eas­i­ly and blooms even in deep shade all sea­son, mak­ing it hard to hate. Vir­ginia water­leaf (Hydrophyl­lum vir­gini­anum) has a dusty laven­der flower and foliage that appears water spot­ted. Not a show stop­per, but a love­ly shady wood­land addition. 

Spring is always a mar­velous time for a trea­sure hunt, and Lan­dis is a per­fect place to do it. Just remem­ber to tread care­ful­ly and leave the pre­cious rich­es for oth­ers to discover.

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Spring 2022

Volume 40 , Number 1

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