Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wildflower Wednesday~Spring Beauties

Are a sure sign that spring is here.

Claytonia virginica are just beginning to flower in the Middle South
where our humble, yet lovable garden
Clay and Limestone is located.
These much loved native wildflowers
are members of the Portulacaceae family
and are among the earliest spring blooming plants in my garden.

Know by the common name Spring Beauty...
the sweet little flowers grow from edible tubers
that were a cherished food of
Native Americans because of
their chestnut like flavor.
Some people call them fairy-spuds!

There is nothing like drifts of these sweet flowers
to make you appreciate spring.

They look beautiful in lawns and if you can hold off mowing
you will be rewarded with a beautiful display year after year.
They bloom for about a month and I've noticed that
they disappear from lawns that have been weed and fed.
If you want a traditional lawn then Spring beauty will not grow for you.

I wish that Spring Beauty blanketed my yard.
They don't, but flower instead here and there.
My goal is to have those delicious drifts and I beg plants from neighbors!

They are delightful harbingers of springtime,
sweet ephemerals that bloom, set seed,
then disappear until next spring.

Spring beauty flowers are about the size of a dime
with five equal-sized petals that spread wide as the sun warms them.
From a distance, the flowers appear white,
but, each petal is suffused with a delicate network of pastel pink veins.
Those pink veins are nectar guides.

There are two species of Claytonia in Tennessee.
The common, Claytonia virginica has grass-like leaves and
Claytonia caroliniana has broader leaves.
The flowers are almost identical.
Claytonia caroliniana is found in the Southeastern states, while
Claytonia virginica is found growing in Canada,
as far south as Florida and west into Kansas and Texas.
Translated that means Zone 3 to Zone 9.

Spring Beauties are pollinated by over 100 species of insects. That's a lot of bees, flies and other winged creatures relying on nectar and pollen. That makes them an important early food source. Some states have declared them endangered. That is not the case in Tennessee, but I would still be very sure I buy from nurseries that propagate their plants. There are still businesses that collect from the wild.

In case you have an abundance of Spring Beauties
and don't mind harvesting your own fairy spuds.
The tubers are found about two to three inches under the soil
and measure from a half inch to two inches in diameter.
I found this recipe for a fairy spud version of Salade Niçoise

Salade Niçoise Amuse-Gueule (A novel approach to the classic salad: makes 24 canapés)

* 24 spring beauty tubers, boiled, chilled, and halved
* 12 quail eggs, hard-boiled, shelled, chilled, and halved lengthwise
* 1 can of high-quality tuna in olive oil, drained and flaked
* 24 niçoise or picholine olives, pitted
* 12 anchovy fillets, halved lengthwise to make 24 strips
* 1 generous cup of mâche (lamb's lettuce), washed and spun dried
* 48 haricots verts, boiled and chilled
* 24 slices of French-style baguette, sliced 5-inch thick, brushed with olive oil and lightly toasted, cooled
* Unsalted butter, softened

Butter the baguette toasts and adhere a little mâche to each. Divide and artfully arrange the rest of the ingredients on the toasts and serve.
From Scott D Appell
writing for the Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Wildflower Wednesday is about sharing wildflowers/natives/naturally occurring plants no matter where you garden~the UK, tropical Florida, Europe, Australia, Africa, South America, India or the coldest reaches of Canada. It doesn't matter if we sometimes show the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most.

I hope you join the celebration..It's always the fourth Wednesday of the month!



  1. We have Spring Beauties here, too, but they won't start blooming for several more weeks. There are none in my suburban lawn, but I know where to find them. I "brake" for Spring Beauties, always stopping to admire them along the way.

    I didn't know they were edible, though!

  2. Gail,
    We don't have spring beauties here:( but we do have some of the plants that grow with them. Really enjoyed your post and have eaten many times a recipe close to that one(ok just kiddin)

    In Hillsborough, NC along the Eno River there are places filled with spring beauties, hopefully we'll visit at least one of them this weekend.

  3. hmmm, I must pay closer attention around here. Very nice.

  4. I love the idea of calling them Fairy Spuds. I have never heard this about them before. The green of the Fairy Spuds are up here but it will be some time before we get some blooms. There is a park here in town that has a beautiful display of them every spring. I look forward to seeing the park blanketed with Fairy Spuds. You could have a feast here.

  5. What a pretty wildflower. I don't think I have seen any of those around here. (NC piedmont) Thanks for sharing! Carla

  6. I haven't noticed any in our yard but they would be welcome should they make an appearance. What does their foliage look like?

  7. I am not familiar with spring beauties, but I will have to look for some. These are a lovely beginning to spring.

  8. Those Spring Beauties are just that. Don't think we have them here - but now I wish we did!

  9. Good morning Gail, how dainty. I love the name Fairy Spuds. As usual, the common names are so magical and the botanical names so blah:)

    I'll have to check these out.

  10. Lovely, I think I saw these just the other day, but I had no idea what they were. I love the name Fairy Spuds -very evocative.

  11. I have one of those "weedy" country lawns that is never fertilized or cared for in any way, except mowed, so there is a carpet of these lovelies (and violets, buttercups, and others). They spread everywhere, and are one of the most welcome signs of spring for me, but gone all too soon!

  12. Ooh, I have to go check on them. I think it's a little too early here, but you never know.

    Wonder what that recipe tastes like, but I'd hate to dig up any spring beauties to find out ;-)

  13. Very pretty. I haven't seen any of these but will be on the lookout. The fairy spuds is most cool! Here is my link to Wildflower Wednesday: http://tinaramsey.blogspot.com/2010/03/wildflower-wednesday-bloodroot.html

    Of course you've already visited. I was sweating it out to have anything in bloom. The bloodroot obliged though I think they are a bit early according to what I read on the web. It is so nice to have some natives. A steep learning curve for me though.

  14. No spring beauties here... so I'm really enjoying yours! :)

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  18. Wonderful post about a beautiful spring ephemeral Gail. I've wanted to add these to my garden for many years. They are lovely.

  19. I know how much you love these, Gail, and agree about how special they are. But did not know they were potatoes for the fairies! You should have mentioned that little tidbit when giving me the hard sell on them. Now they MUST come live here. I know just the spot for them. :-)
    Frances and Don

  20. I haven't noticed any fairy spuds blooming yet...I'll have to go check around.

  21. I love these little guys. When I lived downtown Raleigh, they were everywhere in the lawn. In understand Elizabeth Lawrence had something to do with that! Makes me like them all the more. I have a few in my garden and we have lots in the JC Raulston Arboretum. Very nice Gail.H.

  22. I've never grown Spring Beauty, but I've admired them in the wild areas around here. They need to be see up close to truly appreciate them. i've never heard the name "fairy spuds." Carol needs to grow these.

    My wildflower post is about

  23. Oh, I love love LOVE those. I think I need some. I'm going to look around online & see if I can find a source. I want to interplant some wildflowers in my bits of lawn to add some early spring interest.

  24. Hey you wonderful people~I am away from the computer~Thank you all...

  25. It's always such a treat to see your wildflowers, Gail; I'm always learning about a new plant here. This is a delicate little beauty.

    I'm afraid I don't have any wildflowers here, at least that I recognize, but you're inspiring me to take a walk soon with Sophie at our favorite park where there is a wildflower garden. Right now, though, I'm thrilled that my crocuses have finally appeared!

    Enjoyed your post about the perspective from your garden bench. Your garden is a great example of all-season interest.

  26. Fabulous information and now a recipe too. Wow, Gail. How do you find the time? You should write a book on wildflowers. You really should.~~Dee

  27. In the Western Cape, wildflower lovers, who wait with mowing, get a similar effect from a low growing bright pink Oxalis. We have no lawn, but all wildflowers are welcome.

  28. Hi Gail....spring beauties are very very pretty. I love wildflowers.....and never understand why people take them from the wild. It happened here with our native woodland primrose....they are now very rare in the wild. Sad but true......

    Happy spring Gail......

  29. Fairy Spuds is such a great name and edible too, wonderful. I've never seen these around our area. I love your picture with the drift of them. I can see why you'd hold off on mowing.

    Our post is now up. My dear sis did the post- Utah Ladyfinger

  30. They really are spring beauties, Gail. When it gets to be spring here, I'll have to go out and see if I have any of these growing in my woods. As I think about it, though, anything that is happy in your clay and limestone conditions is probably not going to be growing in my sand and acid conditions! -Jean

  31. They are so cute, I've never heard of them. I love their nickname fairy-spuds! :)

  32. We have Claytonia sibirica here, Western candiflower I think. They grow from seed, though, and I don't think they have the spuds...

  33. Gail,
    We knew Claytonia spp. in CA as grad students, and also have them here in SC in basic-mesic forest areas, but they're not very common, as most of our (background, that is, normal gardening) landscapes are pretty acidic!

    It's a wonderful early spring flower to enjoy!

  34. Very pretty little blooms. Wish I had a place suitable for them.

  35. It is easy to see why you love this little flower. I do hope you are able to get some from your neighbors. I find it interesting that they have a chestnut flavor. Native Americans certainly knew how to use all sorts of plants didn't they?

  36. Hi Gail,
    Spring beauty is a great name for that flower. I don't know if there are any here. I've not heard of them. I enlarged your meadow photo. It's amazing!

    Thanks for your comments on my kitchen. I am almost finished figuring out where I want things. I still go to the original spot I put some things before remembering where they ended up. I'm having fun, but am starting to wish all the messes were cleaned up from the rest of the house.

  37. oh i was at the bakers grove hiking trail(highly recommended , awesome bluff top rest sites and abundant variety of spring epipherals ) and i noticed a few poking their heads up here and there, hills covered in trillium poking up, ranaculus popping out,and an entire hilltop covered in vinca minor,which had been a graveyard, invasive little sucker but beautiful none the less.
    how exiting that we are going back into spring again!! i am getting the garden fever already!

  38. i love these spring beauties...not sure if i have any but i will be on the look out for them.
    such an interesting story on the native americans loving them for their chestnut flavour.
    i can just imagine a huge drift on them on my lawn.
    happy springtime, gail.

  39. How lovely! Thanks for sharing. I love seeing the wildflowers. Don't think I could eat the tubers knowing I'd be taking away next year's flowers.

    We've finally started wildflowers here, Dewberry, Bluebonnets, Wind Anemones, Evening Primrose, and Prairie Verbena are blooming now. I think of Lady Bird Johnson every time I drive.

  40. Your Spring Beauties are indeed aptly named, dear Gail. A lovely post and interesting recipe! Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos and spring thoughts.

  41. Hi Gail. Terrific little beauties are these. I am just now learning to look for "nursery propagated" so that I know they weren't dug up in the wild. I never paid much attention before but I think it's crucial to keep plants flourishing in the native habitats. Something more people should call attention to. I'm glad it's spring somewhere!

  42. Gail - beautiful and fascinating! I don't see those around here. I wonder if they can be grown from seed?

    Sorry to take a day to get here! Two days of great gardening and we went out to hear music last night and got in late, so I didn't make the blog rounds.

  43. Well, they are cute! And I've never heard of them.

  44. I should love to have a carpet of these beauties too Gail! A lovely way to mark Spring! Very informative post ... chestnut like flavor... yummy... and your recipe with quail eggs... how very Spring like! ;>)

  45. I'll dream tonight of fairies digging up tiny spuds. How sweet :)
    I'll have to go in search of them around here. I don't remember seeing them but will be on the lookout now.
    Their little faces are so precious!

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