Spring Ephemeral Flowers Bloom For All to See

Spring Ephemerals have had my attention for the past few weeks. I truly enjoy watching Spring take hold in the form of spying on my flowery friends. As the various plants arise from their winter sleep they sprout and put forth their beautiful blossoms for all to see.

The Spring ephemeral flowers by their very nature are fleeting in appearance. You can see them one day and be glad that you did for the next day they could be gone until the next year. Part of my delight stems from the fact that I know most people will never go to the woods to see these beauties. Can I possibly derive pleasure from knowing that people will miss out on these beautiful displays? Not really, but I do feel privileged somehow.

Instead of keeping all the fun to myself, I’ll keep posting pictures here to share with everyone. Soon, I’ll be offering an ebook or e-course on Spring Ephemerals, so stay tuned!

Some years I’ve totally missed out on seeing some favorite flowers because one thing or another kept me from taking time to hunt them. This year I’ve vowed to get to the woods to see my favorites, which I have been lucky to do so far, and to find a few new friends.

Activities that help us to appreciate nature – like looking for spring ephemeral flowers – would make for great family outings. If you’re trying to be “green-minded”, gather your kids or friends and take your next activity to a state park or forest where you can picnic and have some inexpensive fun. There are all sorts of things to do and observe that don’t cost more than your transportation of getting there. Here’s a few ideas to get started –

  • Set a goal to find five new flowering friends each season.
  • Walk or hike in the woods or on a nearby trail and observe nature.
  • Find a favorite flowering plant and observe it through all four seasons.
  • Make a photo-collage or screen-saver of your favorite flowers and leaves.
  • Find wild flowers that are red, white and blue, or your favorite colors.
  • Locate a berry vine and watch the flowers develop into yummy blackberries or black raspberries. Then, make jelly!
  • Get outside and just enjoy the fresh air.

Some of my old favorite spring ephemeral flowers include Round-Leaved Hepatica, Spring Beauty, Trout Lily, Bloodroot and Dutchman’s Breeches.

Spring flowers that I hadn’t before seen or identified include Early Saxifrage, Bluets, and, no doubt, there will be more to be appreciated in the years to come.

Spring ephemerals are just about done flowering for 2010. The trees are at least 50% with leaves developed, so the time for spring ephemeral flowers is almost over. Time for one more walk in the woods!

Dutchman’s Breeches Bloom the First Half of April in Pennsylvania

Went to drop off the car at the local garage a couple weeks ago for its annual inspection. The garage is located on a “river road” that travels along the Juniata River in Perry County, PA.

On Saturday, 3Apr2010, I had reason to travel the same river road (on my way to Little Buffalo State Park in Newport, PA) and it was then that I first spied these massive groupings of Dutchman’s Breeches. Until then I had not seen such a large grouping of these curious Spring ephemeral flowers.

Dutchman’s Breeches, Dicentra cucullaria, were blooming in mass quantities on high stone outcroppings and along the roadside. The stoney hillside coming up from the river bank is gradual in slope on the river side of the road, but once you cross the road the stone rises more vertical, making small cliffs in a couple areas that are probably 30 to 50 ft. tall.

Dutchmen's breeches blooming on the hillside.
Dutchmen's breeches blooming on the hillside.

The Dutchman’s Breeches were in full bloom and really shone white in the sunlight. As we passed by them in the car you could easily see the white blossoms on their flower spike hanging above the plant greenery.

Flower stalks of dutchmen's britches.
Flower stalks of dutchmen's britches.

Dutchman’s Breeches have all their flowers in a row going up a curved flower stalk, in the manner of the old time garden favorite Bleeding Hearts, Dicentra spectabilis, a close relative of Dutchman’s Breeches. Comparing one to the other you can see similarities in the way the flowers hang from their flower stems.

The Venus's car, bleeding heart or lyre flower...
Image via Wikipedia Bleeding Hearts

While the Bleeding Hearts dangle down from their flower stem, the Dutchman’s Breeches appear to be hanging on the clothesline with their feet up!

Flowers of Dutchman's britches.
Flowers of Dutchman's britches.

Note the highly divided, feathery leaves. This closeup image shows the “pantaloons” hanging from the flower stalk. The unique flower of Dutchman’s Breeches makes identification a simple matter. No other flower looks quite like a hanging pantaloon. Another related plant, called Squirrel Corn, Dicentra canadensis, has a similar flower, but instead of two “legs” sticking up it’s blossom has a rounded end that makes it look like a kernel of corn.

We’ve seen Dutchman’s Breeches blooming from the 3rd to the 18th of April this year, so there’s at least a two week time period to observe their flowers, which is kind of long for a Spring ephemeral. Once you know what they look like, they’re easily noticed – even while driving by at highway speeds – by their flowers on the upright flower stalks.

Apparently, Dutchman’s Breeches prefer a wooded, hillside habitat. We’ve seen several areas with mass groupings of them and all were on a slope in wooded areas.

Dutchman's breeches blooming on a east-facing hillside.
Dutchman's breeches blooming on a east-facing hillside.

Dutchman’s Breeches on a east-facing hill on the western side of the Juniata River. (Photo taken 10Apr2010.)

Dutchman's breeches blooming on a west-facing hillside.
Dutchman's breeches blooming on a west-facing hillside.

Dutchman’s Breeches on a west-facing hill on the eastern side of the Juniata River. (Photo taken 7Apr2010.)

Blooming on the same west-facing slope were Dogtooth Violet or Trout Lily, Cut-Leaved Toothwort and Spring Beauty. This slightly shaded, moist area next to the river was still receiving runoff as we saw some water flowing down the rocks to the river.

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