Spring Ephemerals

Spring Ephemerals

As the spring progresses I am just itching to see any new flowers that emerge! I've seen a few garden flowers like crocuses, snowdrops, and scilla. But I really can't wait to see the true wildflowers come up!

Spring ephemerals are flowers that grow early in the spring on the forest floor. They are short lived (ephemeral) because once the leaves emerge on the trees above and the canopy closes in, they can't get enough sunlight to grow and bloom. So they need to complete their whole life cycle quickly, before the sunlight disappears!  

Over the years I have made many spring ephemerals and I'm going to highlight a few below. These all grow on or near our property which is close to Lanark, Ontario and all are native to this area.

The first flower that I usually see in the forest is round-lobed hepatica. This flower has fuzzy stems and beautiful white or purplish flowers. I think it likes to grow under maple trees because that's usually where I see them. Sometimes they can carpet the whole area with blossoms! 

Spring beauties come out right around the same time as the hepatica. There are two types in Ontario, Virginia Spring Beauty and Carolina Spring Beauty. They are very alike. These tiny pink flowers grow in large masses. They smell amazing when in bloom! If you dig down you'll notice that they have a bulb-like root that is apparently edible, though I have not tried it.

I always get a thrill when I see the Dutchman's Breeches. They grow an a very steep cliffside at our land, seemingly right out of the rocks. They are such an exotic, unexpected sight in the early spring forest.

Another early flower is Trout Lily. Also called Dog-toothed violet, this is one of my favourites to make. I love the leaves, which have a pattern that looks like the side of a fish, hence the name. The flowers are so expressive, like little jester's caps. I usually only see one or two in our forest but lots and lots of leaves. Here in Almonte, they grow in a large carpet of blooms in the park.

A very special little ephemeral flower is the fringed polygala. This is such a strange looking, tiny bloom that it is easy to miss. It has a long tubed part that almost looks like a snout. This one was really tricky to make!


Trillium is the most recognizable of the spring ephemerals. I have made both the red trillium (also called Wake Robin) and the white trillium. This year I hope to make the nodding trillium as well. You shouldn't pick trilliums because they take a long time too bloom (7 years or so) so making them out of paper is a perfect way to bring them into your home!

I also just love seeing the Large-flowering Bellwort. The bright yellow colour stands out so well against all the dried leaves of the forest floor.

 These are only some of the many beautiful spring flowers waiting to be found in the forest I hope you can get out there and see some of them too!