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spring
ephemerals



flowers and hikes in Western MA

a collaborative community art project by llook︎

illustrations by Liz︎

Ephemeral: lasting for a very short time. Transitory. Quickly fading. Ephemeral plants are those marked by a very short life cycle. Spring ephemerals are the perennial woodland wildflowers that bloom in early spring, after the snow melts and before trees cast their shade over the forest floor. Trout lily. Bloodroot. Trillium. Hepatica.

Since they flower and reproduce during a very limited window of time, we’ve scouted some locations and built a brief guide so you can get a jump start on enjoying these little beauties.

hikes


Here are a few spots we’ve found an abundance of ephemerals. Do you have a location we can add? Let us know here︎



mt. toby


So many fun flowers here because the soils are very nutrient dense from all of the bedrock. Very different ecologies!

︎ Cohosh
︎ Round-lobed hepatica

read more ︎

mitch’s marina 


A wonderful example of a floodplain forest, where you’ll encounter dense, tall trees and a ton of ferns. Very surreal looking!

︎ Painted Trillium
︎ Bloodroot
︎ Trout Lily

read more ︎

keystone arches


A well-marked trail featuring a series of stone arch bridges built for the railroad in 1840.

︎ Trout Lily
︎ Blue Cohosh
︎ Red Trillium

read more ︎

Leverett 4H Forest


This network of trails links several properties with a wildly varied habitat! Interconnected trails make it easy to explore different areas of the properties.
 
︎ Bloodroot
︎ Painted Trillium
︎ Red Trillium
︎ Trout Lily


read more ︎

flowers 


Please don't pick these flowers as they are the earliest food source for pollinators — they’re prettier intact than in your hand!




bloodroot


Sanguinaria Canidensis
Poppy Family

March – May
6 – 12 inches
Found in rich woods

BloodRoot Plant produces beautiful white flowers that are made up of long slender petals and has a bright yellow center to them. The leaves are a dark color of green, so the flowers stand out when in bloom.

The pale, lobed leaf embraces the stalk bearing the showy 8- to 10-petaled flower. Note the orange juice of the broken stem—bloodroot is often used to dye yarn and cloth.


︎ learn more


trout lily


Erythronium americanum
Liliaceae Family

March – May
4 – 10 inches
Found in mixed woods

Note the reflexed yellow petals (often brown-purple beneath) and 2 broad, mottled basal leaves. The edge of the leaf is smooth.  The yellow flowers are solitary and nodding, appearing at the end of the single stem.

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blue cohosh


Caulophyllum thalictroides
Barberry family

April - June
12 – 36 inches
Found in rich woods

The 6-pointed flowers (greenish yellow or yellow-green to brown) are replaced later by clusters of deep blue berries. The leaves, divided into 7 to 9 leaflets, suggest meadow-rue. Young plants may have a waxy whitish bloom. 

“To come upon a large stand of these plants in the spring, when the bluish-green, lace-like leaves gently quiver in a warm breeze, is absolutely breathtaking and stunning enough to take me to my knees more than once in gratitude and awe.”

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jack-in-the-pulpit


Arisaema triphyllum
Araceae Family

April – June
12 – 36 inches
Found in woods and swamps

This plant is known for its ability to change gender.

The flaplike spathe is green or purplish brown, often striped, and curves gracefully over the club-shaped spadix (the “Jack” or preacher in his canopied pulpit). Flowers tiny, at base of spadix; staminate and pistillate flowers often on separate plants. Leaves 1 or 2, long-stalked, 3-parted. Fruit a cluster of scarlet berries. 

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painted trillium


Trillium Undulatum
Liliaceae Family


April – June
8 – 16 inches
Found in rich woods

This trillium has a slender stalk  with a whorl of three large, blue-green leaves. The flower, white with purple markings, is borne above the leaves on a short, arching stem. The erect, stalked flower has an inverted, pink V at the base of each white, wavy-edged petal.

The flower is followed by fruit in early fall. The fruit is a fleshy, berry-like capsule that starts off green and changes to bright red.

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round-lobed hepatica


Hepatica Americana
Ranunculaceae

March – May
4 – 6 inches
Found in leafy woods

Hepatica is one of the first wildflowers to bloom in the spring, but they are only open on sunny days! The flowers are white, pink, lavender, or blue. The 6 to 10 “petals” are really sepals, and they sit upon a leafless, hairy stem. They’re often found in clumps, with the flower stalks standing upright over the flattened basal leaves.

“The plant gets its name from the leathery purple-brown basal leaves, which resemble the shape of the liver. Many early herbalists believed that the shape of the plant determined its usefulness in the treatment of liver ailments.”

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