The spring ephemerals continue…

Find the habitat, find the plants. That’s a good Keith quote.

Our friend Parker from White Mountain Mushrooms suggested we try a spot that he had scoped out earlier, and it certainly paid off!

Spring ephemeral habitat, New Hampshire Maine

What might look like just a jumble of rocks is actually a talus slope in a rich mesic forest – the perfect habitat for spring ephemerals!

Dicentra cucullaria, dutchman's breeches, nh wildflowers, spring ephemerals, blooms

Dicentra cucullaria, or dutchman’s breeches, is one of the most recognizable spring ephemerals. This hillside was covered with hundreds of these low growing wildflowers.

Dicentra cucullaria, dutchman's breeches, nh wildflowers, spring ephemerals

Now we know what the breeches of a Dutchman look like, I suppose! Usually white, but sometimes a lovely pink like we saw in Putney VT last year, the blooms stretch up past the leaves, fluttering in the slightest of breezes that pass.

Dicentra canadensis, or squirrel-corn, is a close relative to dutchman’s breeches. Squirrel-corn is, however, on the “not rare but apparently Michelle and Keith can’t find it” list. It does blooms a little later than dutchman’s breeches, so there is still hope this year!

Uvularia sessilifolia, sessile leaved bellwort blooming, spring ephemeral, nh wildflowers

Uvularia sessilifolia, or sessile-leaved bellwort, is now in full bloom.  Last week we saw unopened seedlings; things happen quick this time of year! Sessile is a common botany descriptive meaning ‘without a stalk.’ U. sessilifolia is secure throughout New England.

Uvularia sessilifolia, sessile leaved bellwort starting to bloom, spring ephemeral, nh wildflowers

This might be one of my favorite pictures. The leaves have just begun to part and the bloom is almost ready to free itself and fall… ..

Sanguinaria canadensis, blood-root, nh wildflowers, new hampshire wildflowers

Blood-root, or Sanguinaria canadensis, is unmistakable! We only found a few small stems; they seem to be blooming a bit later than the other ephemerals. The root of S. canadensis ‘bleeds’ if you cut into it, hence the common name. S. canadensis is the only species of the genus Sanguinaria… there are no other plants quite like it!

Trillium erectum, red trillium, nh wildflower, new hampshire wildflowers

Of course the Trilliums! Trillium erectum, or red trillium, is the first of the Trillium species to bloom in our area.

New England Wildflower Society’s Garden in the Woods in Framingham, MA is celebrating their first annual Trillium week May 9 – 13.  With guided Trillium walks and seminars on their evolution and distribution, care and maintenance, if you have not visited the Garden, now would be a great time!

Viola rotundifolia, round leaved violet, yellow violet, nh wildflowers

Just a few inches tall, Viola rotundifolia, or a round-leaved violet, is worth crouching down to see. There are 30 Viola species listed for New England in Flora Novae Englica, and identification can be tough. However, this early in the season when you see yellow violets with round-ish leaves, you can be quite certain it is Viola rotundifolia!

Cardamine diphylla, two leaved toothwort, new hampshire wildflowers, nh wildflowers

Cardimine diphylla, or two-leaved toothwort, is part of the bitter-cress genus. Most bitter-cresses, including this one, are considered edible.  The life cycle of a spring ephemeral is quick … hopefully we’ll be back here in time to see this blooming!

Carex penslyvanica and Carex plantageneaWith almost 200 species in New England, the Carex genus is our area’s largest genus.  The Carex genus encompasses the sedges – what look like large clumps of flat grasses. They are notoriously hard to identify (since they are, of course, all clumps of flat grass), but some can be identified by their distinctive “culms,” or flowering stalks.

Carex plantaginea, or plantain-leaved sedge, is on the left, and has long, wide leaves….apparently just like a plantain! Carex pensylvanica (yes, only one ‘n’), has shorter and much narrower leaves. The culms of each is about six inches tall.

There is a little botany rhyme that keep separating the sedges, the grasses, and the rushes simple: Sedges have edges, rushes are round, grasses are hollow right up from the ground. Now, of course, these rules are not true 100% of the time (gotta keep it interesting!) but it’s a good guide for the majority of them.

Scilla siberica, siberian squill, new hampshire invasive, nh invasive

Othocallis siberica, or Siberian squill, may be pretty, but it’s not native! While not considered invasive, do be aware if you find it along the edges of river or stream bank. The seed can be spread downstream far faster than it will creep across a field!

Bartramia pomiformis, apple moss sporophytesAhh moss. This common apple moss, or Bartramia pomiformis, has the coolest little sporophytes! Perfectly round, sitting on top of hair thin stems that don’t seem strong enough to hold them, as they age they will harden, darken, and shrivel up.

Celastrina lucia, Northern azure butterfly

Northern Azures (Celastrina lucia) and Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) are almost impossible to tell apart if you do not see the uppersides of the wing, which is the view of the wing when the wings are open. Based on where and when we found this one, the good folks at BugGuide tell me this is most likely a Northern Azure which would have a bright blue uppersides, vs. a more violet blue of the Spring Azure.

pheasant crossing the road, new hampshire

Birds are not usually on our radar, but when a ring-neck pheasant struts his stuff right in front of you, you notice! These are not native to New Hampshire, but are stocked by Fish and Game for hunting.

mayfly, new hampshire

According to Insects of New England, there 20 families and 614 species of Mayflies in New England. Sooooo…I’m not even going to attempt to ID this guy. All mayflies share this same form, though. The “tails” are called cerci, and adults have no mouths since they do not eat. They are common visitors to lights at night and don’t live more than a few days. The “flies” that fishermen tie are often modeled after mayflies!

There is no going back now!  A couple more weeks of ephemerals will morph into trees bursting with leaves, morels and early orchids before we know it. Let the season begin!


the dirty girl at dirty botany
Head dirty girl at!
Bug worshiper.
Slime mold fanatic.
Macrophotographer in training.

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2 thoughts on “The spring ephemerals continue…

  1. Mike and Nicole Reply

    Hi – my wife and I have been trying to find dutchman’s breeches in the White Mountains, but so far have been unsuccessful. Would you be able to let me know where you found them?

    Thanks so much!
    Mike and Nicole

  2. Michelle Post authorReply

    Hi Mike and Nicole! Hey, send me a message via the ‘contact’ page with your email address and I’ll send you a location 🙂

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