SPRING BEAUTY: An Early, Small, Ephemeral Wildflower

Spring woodland wildflower season is beginning in Eliza Howell Park and the  star of the opening show is Spring Beauty.

20200422_143229Spring Beauty is a dainty plant with narrow leaves, only about 3 inches tall when it blooms. Each flower, about 1/2 of an inch wide, has 5 petals and 5 stamens.

A close-up picture shows details that are missed when a walker does not get down to its level.

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I start looking for the beauties when I cross the footbridge on the path into the deciduous woods. Much of the ground here was swept bare by winter floods this year and tiny spring flowers are widespread.

Spring Beauty flowers are mostly white with pink veins, some brighter than others. This collage shows the color variation.

Resized_20200418_164539As is the case with most early woodland flowers, they are visible for only a few weeks, dying back about the time the leaves come out on the large trees overhead.

As I was checking some Spring Beauties  on one of the few sunny days that we have had recently in Detroit, I was treated to special view: a tiny Spring Azure butterfly coming to rest on a tiny Spring Beauty, one of the earliest butterflies of the year on one of rhe earliest flowers.

20200422_143137The Azure, its blue coloring only visible when the wings are open, had just emerged fron the chrysalis stage in which it had spent the winter. Often they seek moisture from the soil at this time, so I was delighted and surprised  that it came to the flowers in front of me.

The planned Eliza Howell spring wildflower public walk has been canceled this year for public health reasons, but Spring Beauty is common in wooded areas (in the eastern United States and Canda) and can easily be found without a guide, often right by the path. It is best to look on sunny days, preferably in the afternoon. The flowers close overnight and do not open much at all on cloudy days.

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There will be a variety of small woodland wildflowers blooming in the next couple of weeks. In part because it is usually the first, Spring Beauty is one of my favorites.

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