Monday, March 5, 2012

Spring Ephemerals

Spring has arrived along the Piedmont creeks. 
No, you can't tell from the photo below.

But look closely at the ground as you walk. Trout lilies are beginning to bloom. 

I never heard of trout lilies until five or six years ago, when I began volunteering at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. The woman who coordinated our small crew of volunteers was crazy about spring ephemerals. The tinier the flower, the more she liked it. The trout lily flower is not quite as big as in the close-up photo below.

The speckled leaves emerge from the leaf litter in the thousands on slopes along the creeks. They're enchanting. Tiny, subtle, hard to photograph, then gone in a few weeks, leaves and all. 

Spring ephemerals don't have time to grow big blooms. They thrive in the short window between the end of winter and the emergence of leaves, which soon block the light to the forest floor. The sharp growing tip of trout lily, below, punctures a leaf. I can almost see it growing.

Here is what a trout lily looks like from above, growing at the base of a tree among wild ginger. 

Spring ephemerals remind me of fairies. I become a child again, crouching in the leaves to enter their world. Here trout lilies grow among spring beauties, one of the tiniest of tiny flowers.

Spring beauties are about the size they appear in the photo below. They have charming delicate pink stamens. 

Hepatica is hard to find, but well worth looking for. The lavender flowers emerge before the three-lobed leaves. 

Below is a windflower. 

I will join Beth at Plant Postings' meme on Lessons Learned and Donna at Gardens Eye View's meme on Seasonal Celebrations. These little flowers are a celebration. They mark the beginning of spring. 

Winter lessons learned:

1. Do not allow yourself to become so distracted by work and house (even if you have good reasons!) that you don't spend time in the garden and nature.

2. Take more walks in the woods, especially in early spring.

3. Look for the beauty in small signs of life.

4. You can grow seeds indoors under a desk lamp with a compact fluorescent bulb (no need for fancy equipment!)

5. It's a pleasure to see daffodils emerge where you didn't even remember you planted them.


Stacy said...

I'm so glad your own signs of spring are up and blooming, Sheila! When I lived in Ithaca and used to go on forest walks with my dog, this was my favorite time of year, just for the sense of discovery with every footstep. It's a time of year when you almost have the woods to yourself, too, and the sense of...I don't know what--being in on a secret with all those tiny flowers? was just entrancing. What a lovely evocation of that world, Sheila--thank you.

PlantPostings said...

Wow, this was indeed an enchanting walk in the woods, Sheila! I felt like I was on the walk with you. Those spring ephemerals just take your breath away, don't they? Very nicely done, Sheila. Thanks for joining in the memes!

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

You know I love the spring ephemerals and have been highlighting them on my blog and at Beautiful Wildlife Gardens...I can't get enough of them...your post is perfect and I agree that we must find time to walk in the woods in early spring...oh and I think of fairies when I see these blooms too...fab pics of these blooms..thx for joining in!!!

The Sage Butterfly said...

These are lovely signs of spring in the woodland. I am impressed by how many blooms and growth you are able to find...beautiful.

Sheila Read said...

Stacy, glad the post evoked lovely memories for you. It is a special time of year in the woods. Kind of like going on a treasure hunt.

Beth, glad you felt like you were on the walk. I wrote it stream of consciousness...

Donna, there's something special about fairy gardens. I often find them growing among boulders and at the base of tree trunks.

Sage, now I want to go find more blooms. Glad you enjoyed them.

Mary Pellerito said...

Lovely post. Lovely blog

tina said...

Wow very nice! I'm like you and just discovered trout lilies a few years ago-from reading blogs. Happy spring!

Daricia said...

hi! i'm in north carolina, too, and i just posted about finding hepatica in the woods! (also, halberd-leaf violet.) i'm glad i found your blog through plantpostings...i'll be back, i just subscribed!

Sheila Read said...

Hi Mary, Tina and Daricia. Thanks for commenting. Daricia, I look forward to checking out your blog. Hepatica is such a special little flower. I like the small three-lobed leaves, too.

Casa Mariposa said...

I love spring ephemerals, too. They remind us to stop and pay attention to what's going on around us. :o)

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

I loved this post because it showed the ephemerals closeup and personal, and you explained their actual size. Sometimes, it's so hard in picture to show someone the true size of a flower. Those do remind me of fairies too. Thank you.~~Dee