Thursday, March 15, 2012

Extra Early Ephemerals

Today, Andrew Gibson (The Natural Treasures of Ohio) took me on another stroll through his stomping grounds of the biologically diverse Adam's County, Ohio to explore an extra early array of spring ephemeral plants. There, we found approximately 20 new early bloomers for the year!

One of the highlights for me along the trip was the Snow Trillium (Trillium nivale). Of course, as the common name implies, this species - the smallest of the 8 Ohio trilliums - emerges so early that they are often blooming through snow. However, they certainly didn't have to live up to their epithet this winter.

The white trout lilies did not disappoint either. Like T. nivale, this species tends to prefer calcareous soils, which are aplenty in Adams County with such an abundance of dolomitic limestone parent material. We were surprised to see them blooming this early; we were absolutely mind-boggled to see that many had already gone to fruit! The noble plant on the right is surely the king of the ephemeral forest.

Only one bloodroot was to be found today among a complete absence of rue anemone. Similarly, there was no spring beauty to be found, either. We were a bit curious as to why some plants were not in bloom yet when their associates were already so far along. Perhaps some species are less anxious to bloom when such early warm weather occurs; rather, they might rely more on an internal clock. In any event, dwarf larkspur surprised us by blooming much earlier than normal years.

Blooming toad shade trillium (Trillium sessile) was a major surprise to me since I found a healthy patch near peak bloom last year in Athens County on April 24th - almost a month and a half later than this year! Granted, Adams county is two-hours south of that population.

Two other "firsts" for me were the state threatened Michaux's leavenworthia (Leavenworthia uniflora) and one of Ohio's rarest plants - the endangered little whitlow grass (Draba brachycarpa).

Among virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) and yellow fumewort (corydalis flavula), we also came across two toothwort species, common blue violet (Viola sororia) , and many more. I'm already looking forward to visiting Adam's County again. Happy Spring!


  1. I HAVE To get to the woods asap to see what is blooming around here. There is one area where I have seen trillium blooming here in the Midlands of SC...but its been a very dry winter so I have no clue what may or may not be around. Your photos are great!!! Although I would love to blame the Industrial world for this problem, I think its more natural than not.

  2. Wow, Adams Co. is well ahead of the Ozarks. Bluebells already? No way. Good post.
    I have an old college friend who has just relocated to Cleveland. She wants a list of places near Cleveland where she can go for hikes and short walks. Any suggestions from that part of the state?

  3. Allison, I worked up on the Ohio Islands three summers ago. It's absolutely gorgeous up there. Your friend could take the ferry in for a day and hike Kelly's Island where there are large glacial grooves, lush limestone alvars full of plant life, and a great long trail. small islands are fun to explore because there is so much in so little area and you can't possibly get lost :). Also, South Bass Island is a big tourist attraction with nice outdoor bars on the water and amazing birding. I'd suggest driving to Port Clinton and taking the Miller Ferry in - just under an hour and a half drive from Cleveland. Also, Magee Marsh is one of the best birding areas in the midwest with pretty boardwalks on the water, yet, a relatively long drive. For small hikes close to Cleveland, I'd suggest checking out Cleveland Metro Parks for close-by areas for hiking and nature ( Also, a map of The Nature Conservancy areas -( or Ohios Division of Natural Areas and Preserves ( Hope this helps - See you in about a month!

  4. Excellent--just what I was looking for! See you soon!