The spring ephemerals have sprung!

It’s around this time of year that folks to the south and west of us start sharing pictures of spring ephemerals, the glorious first blooms of spring! Spring ephemerals are the impatient flowers that burst up as soon as the ground warms up. By the time the trees on the leaves pop out, they have bloomed and wilted back, ready to rest for the remainder of the year. It takes a lot of energy to bloom so early in the season, you know!

While we don’t have the blooms that others do quite yet, things ARE slowing starting to wake up a bit. Despite the mild winter and lack of snow, our local plants seem to be right on their usual schedules.

Uvularia sessilifolia, sessile leaved bellwort seedling

Someday soon, this little guy will bloom into Uvularia sessilifolia or a sessile leaved bellwort. Keith and I had always commented that it was hard to find pictures of plants in stages other than full bloom…. so you’ll notice that we try to fill that gap on dirty botany! Pre- and post- bloom plant characteristics may not be quite as showy, but are just as important to know.

In my head I always envisioned us carrying around a ruler (like real botanists!) and taking a picture with said ruler for precise measurements…. but in reality, my hand is going to have to do. 🙂

Erythronium americanum, american trout lily, yellow trout lily

Trout lily leaves can not be confused with anything else. Ranging from 1 to 7 inches long, the floor of the forest can be covered with leaves! Of course being a spring ephemeral, their emergence is short-lived; by summer all trace of this gorgeous carpet will be gone.

We walked a half mile stretch this past weekend and the *entire* area was littered with trout lily. Tens of thousands of leaves is not an exaggeration! I’m quite certain Keith was quite sick of my “Can you believe this trout lily!” statements by the end of the day. Really, though, it was crazy.

Erythronium americanum, american trout lily, yellow trout lily blooming

And yet, with all of those tens of thousands of trout lily leaves, we only saw two blooms! We are going to try to head back in a week… a good percentage of those leaves were quite small. A week will make a big difference!

Erythronium americanum, or trout lily, takes 5-7 years to flower. For the first few years the bulb produces only one leaf. As it matures it will produce two, and then finally produce two leaves with the flower. Any given patch will have a significant portion of younger, non-flowering bulbs. In a pinch, trout lily leaves are edible. Be careful not too eat too many, however, as they are a bit emetic.

Lilium philadephicum, wood lily seeding

These will be some sort of lily….we think.  Lilium philadephicum (wood lily), or maybe Lilium canadense (Canada lily). Both are our native ancestors to the gamut of lilies that grace many a front garden.  Whatever this turns out to be, this patch will be a stunner!

Red Elderberry, Sambucus racemosa, budsI remember the first time we saw Sambucus racemosa, or red elderberry, budding. They were not quite as far along as these are, and they were quite bizarre looking with that bright purple center! On a recent trip to Miami St. Germain and champagne was the beverage of choice before noon. St. Germain is a french elderflower liquor…. guess what is on the to-do list this spring!!

Elderberries do have purported medicinal properties and the berries of some Sambucus species are also often used to make elderberry wine. However, do note that raw elderberries can cause a little….stomach distress. Cook them first, please!

Trillium erectum

The trilliums are coming, the trilliums are coming!

Trillium erectum, or red trillium, will be blooming soon! Of the three local species, both Trillium erectum and Trillium undulatum have leaves that connect directly to the stem, while Trillium undulatum, or nodding wakerobin, has a ‘petiole’ connecting the leaf and the stem.

Trillium grandiflorum is also in New Hampshire, and not even ranked……yet we have never seen it. The search is on, though!

Epigaea repens, trailing arbitus blooming, nh wildflowers

Epigaea repens, or trailing arbitus, is blooming in sunny spots now! I loved the purple touch to these flowers. Depending on location, we can find these blooming right through the summer.

Tussilago farfara, coltsfoot, invasive, nh wildflowers

Tussilago farfara, or coltsfoot, is certainly up. Although it’s one of the first blooms to be seen, it’s not necessarily a welcome one. Here at dirty botany we’re quite vocal in our preference for native plants. Coltsfoot was introduced from Europe and is now widespread across North America. In both Massachusetts and Connecticut it’s even on the “prohibited” list, meaning it’s illegal to sell or distribute it as it can take over habitats.

Fly on Tussilago farfara, coltsfoot, invasive, nh wildflowers, pollinating

Of course, the insects do like it.

And I like insects.

Allium tricoccum, ramps, foraging in new hampshire, Ostrich fern, fiddleheads

And last but certainly not least for the weekend… we found some food!

Allium tricoccum, or ramps, are a highly prized member of the onion family. Thanks to over foraging and slow re-growth many a large wild patch has been reduced to just a handful of bulbs. They are not all that common up here in the North, and this was quite the exciting find! You do need to be careful, though, and harvest carefully. Either take one leaf off of the bulb (both the bulb and the leaves are edible) or be sure to take less than 10% of the patch.

Just a few yards from the ramps were the unmistakable fruiting frond of last year’s ostrich fern, or Matteuccia struthiopteris, which will give us fiddleheads in a few weeks! Many fern species create a ‘fiddlehead’ shape when young, but the ostrich fern is the edible  – and delicious – one. Similar to ramps, please be aware of over-harvesting!

The season has begun! Hopefully we’ll get a bit of rain, and plants and mushrooms should start popping up everywhere. Let the games begin!



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

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