Spring Ephemerals

Spring ephemerals are early blooming, short-lived wildflowers that emerge in early spring and disappear by early summer. They develop above-ground parts in March or April, quickly flower and go to seed, then die back to their underground parts by May or June.

Most spring ephemerals are adapted to take advantage of the relatively high light conditions, high moisture, and rich soil found in spring in forested areas. The above-ground parts appear in the early spring when trees and shrubs are bare of leaves and sunlight reaches the forest floor. They have a high photosynthetic rate that allows them to complete their above-ground growth in a few weeks. They emerge, bloom, are pollinated, and set seed, all in a period of about two months. The above-ground growth then dies back and the plant enters dormancy.

In southern Minnesota some spring ephemerals bloom as early as late March.

Other early spring bloomers maintain above-ground growth throughout the summer. These include Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Rue Anemone, Wild Ginger, and most of the trilliums.

The plants on this page are all found in Minnesota and are all spring ephemeral wildflowers – or are they? Let me know if one of these plants does not belong on this page.

Click on an image to see the page for that plant.


     
Carolina Spring Beauty

Carolina spring beauty

 
Claytonia caroliniana  
   
   
     
Cut-leaved Toothwort cut-leaved toothwort True ephemeral?
Cardamine concatenata  
   
   
     
Dutchman's Breeches

Dutchman’s breeches

 
Dicentra cucullaria  
   
   
     
False Mermaid

False Mermaid

True ephemeral?

Floerkea proserpinacoides

 
   
   
     
jeweled shooting star

Jeweled Shooting Star

 

Dodecatheon amethystinum

 

 

 

 

 
   
     
May-apple

May-apple

True ephemeral?
Podophyllum peltatum  
   
   
     
Minnesota Dwarf Trout Lily

Minnesota Dwarf Trout Lily

 
Erythronium propullans  
   
   
   
   
     
Prairie Shooting Star

Prairie Shooting Star

 

Dodecatheon meadia ssp. meadia

 
   
   
     
Snow Trillium

Snow Trillium

True ephemeral?
Trillium nivale
 
 
     
Squirrel Corn

Squirrel Corn

 
Dicentra canadensis  
   
   
     
Twinleaf

Twinleaf

 
Jeffersonia diphylla
 
 
     
Virginia Bluebells

Virginia Bluebells

True ephemeral?
Mertensia virginica  
   
   
     
Virginia Spring Beauty

Virginia Spring Beauty

 
Claytonia virginica var. virginica  
   
   
     
White Trout Lily

White Trout Lily

 
Erythronium albidum  
   
   
   
   
     
Wood Anemone

Wood Anemone

True ephemeral?
Anemone quinquefolia var. quinquefolia  
   
   
   
   
     
White Trout Lily

Yellow Trout Lily

 
Erythronium Americanum  
   
   
   
   

     

 

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