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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Spring Ephemerals Are Awake!

The soil had barely warmed up before they pushed out and began to unfurl their leaves and buds. 
 leaves trap warm air to protect the buds from spring cold snaps

 Such remarkable and fragile beauties. Ephemerals emerge early each spring, taking advantage of the rich, moist soil and full sunlight streaming through the bare branches of the deciduous trees. In the short period of time before the tree canopy emerges and blocks the sunlight they must grow, leaf-out, flower, be pollinated, produce seeds and die back (retreat underground).

the earliest to bloom are closer to the warm soil
The earliest to bloom in my garden are Cut-leaved toothwort/Cardamine concatenata, Hepatica and Spring Beauties/Claytonia virginica. They're just what this gardener needed to remind me that even though it's been cold and gray that spring is on the way.(Spring Beauty post)

These are flowers that one never has to worry will be nipped by the vagaries of our spring weather! They grow very low to the sun warmed soil and they often have either hairy leaves/stems or leaves that wrap around the emerging buds that trap warm air and keep them from freezing.

Isn't nature amazing!

dense hairs trap heat and protect the blooms
I don't mind crawling around on my hands and knees to look into those pretty faces.

they are visited by all kinds of critters
Of course, they're more than just a pretty face!

They're a vital food source for pollinators at a time when there is little food available. They are visited by many different critters, including honeybees, bumbles, carpenter bees, flies, beetles and their seeds are a primary food for ants. (Ants have a special relationship with the seeds of ephemerals, but, I'll save that story for another time!)

If you're like me and want to help pollinators get a good start in spring, then plant more spring ephemerals in your woodland garden. Please don't dig them them from the wild and be sure any you purchase are certified nursery grown!

The pollinators and other beneficial insects will thank you by making a home in your garden.

PS It bears repeating...If you want a happy and healthy garden with lots of insect visitors then never, ever, ever, ever use pesticides and be careful which flowers you bring home. You want to make sure they haven't been pre-treated with any pesticides that might harm your pollinators.

 Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. This shows that it won't be long until I see these beauties around here. I do have some greenery of the water plant coming up. Come on spring.

  2. I saw a trillium this weekend when walking at Percy Warner. I almost got down on the ground and kissed it- Will this god awful winter never end?

  3. Yippee! Yes, they are a welcome site for us and the critters that depend on them. Lovely phtos!

  4. They are so beautiful but so fleeting. I have a hanfdul, but I sometimes forget about them. I really have to brave the rain to get out there and enjoy them.

  5. Simply lovely like most of the natural world. Thank you for the closeups. I wonder what contortions you had to do to get some of those shots.~~Dee

  6. You are way ahead of us and we are only 25 minutes away! Fantastic photos... been doing the belly crawl I see. Thanks Gail - your blogs always cheer me up on a cloudy day :-)

  7. they are beauties. i love the fact that you probably did get on your hands and knees to get these shots. thanks gail.

  8. I have been looking forward to enough shade in the Mulch Man's Northwest Territory that spring ephemerals could thrive. That time is coming soon and you've made me look forward to it even more!

  9. Lovely, lovely, lovely. I think you must be almost a week ahead of us judging from the Hepatica. But if we just had few warm days without snowstorms in between, who knows what would be possible. I do see one of the Hepaticas starting to unfurl...

  10. These little gems are lovely. We usually think of plants developing survival strategies for dealing with cold weather, but these might just disappear in time to avoid the heat.

  11. Awesome photos, Gail ;) I planted a ton of ephemerals and I'm waiting on them at this very moment. Before the snow, 2 of my hepatica plants were partially in bloom, but not the rest. Spring beauty had put out green, grasslike blades but no blooms, and cutleaf toothwort was nowhere to be found. But I'm watching and waitng. Not very patiently, though!

  12. Hepatic as are so lovely and so welcome in early spring. Superb photos.

  13. I couldn't get a good picture of my own Spring Beauties, so I clicked on Clay and Limestone for yours. SO beautiful, Gail!

  14. Thanks for that ray of hope, Gail! I'm looking forward to sighting the spring ephemerals in the weeks to come. Beautiful post!

  15. Thank you for sharing these wonderful beauties from your gardens.

    Happy Spring ~ FlowerLady

  16. I need to get the early blooming Toothwort species. The one I have blooms much later than yours. I am so jealous of your hepatica and spring beauty and must try harder to get them established in my garden! :)

  17. How lovely to see these sweet little blooms! I really need to add some of these to my garden. I've been raking leaves off the beds, trying to uncover something--anything--blooming, with no luck so far.

  18. I'm SO grateful for the signs of spring that have finally come -- between our wonderful early spring species (I just wrote about bloodroot), to the early-flowering Asian species, it's nice to think spring is definitely here (with a gasp of late winter coming this week, I guess!)

  19. There's always something lovely blooming at your house Gail. Must be all that clay and limestone...

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