In honor of today, the first day of spring, also known as the vernal equinox, here’s a gallery of spring ephemerals we’ll be seeing very soon. In April and May, look for these lovely little flowers in parks such as the path between the Glen Rock and Ridgewood duck ponds along the Saddle River or the Fyke Nature Center off of Godwin Avenue in Wyckoff. All these photos were taken by my husband, Bruce R. Thaler.
These plants prefer moist, shady sites, and all are true spring ephemerals: they complete their life cycles in early spring before the trees leaf out. All are quite small: a foot high or less. So plant them along with ferns, wild ginger (Asarum canadensis), native pachysandra (Pachysandra procumbens) and other ground covers.
Because our native trees leaf out later than nonnative trees, you must plant these lovely little guys under native trees. Otherwise they will not receive enough spring sunlight and will gradually die off. But if you have the right conditions, they are readily available, very easy to grow, and will reappear reliably and increase in number every spring.
Cardamine concatenata, cutleaf toothwort, a member of the mustard family.
Erythronium americanum, trout lily, a diminutive member of the lily family. The common name refers to the leaves, which look like speckled trout. These should be appearing very soon in moist woods.
Claytonia virginica, spring beauty, a member of the Portulaceae
Mertensia virginica, Virginia bluebells, a member of the Boraginaceae. The buds are pink but the open flowers turn deep blue.
Sanguinaria canadensis, bloodroot, a member of the poppy family. This plant grows from tubers and is only about 6 inches high. These last two plants gradually died out in my shade garden because it is located under a Norway maple, which leafs out too early.
Phlox divaricata, woodland phlox. All phloxes belong to the Polemoniaceae. I could not keep this plant going my my shade garden because it is a favorite food of rabbits and deer. I miss it!
And last but not least, our native geranium or cranesbill, Geranium maculatum, a member of the Geraniaceae. This blooms a bit later than the others, in May, grows from rhizomes, is very easy to move and divide, but is visible from only a few weeks in spring.