Starflower in bloom with 3 Canada mayflower plants nearby.
May 26, 2016
I think I first realized they were back two weeks ago. When I was driving home and turned into our road with a full view of the surrounding woods, I noticed that the leaf-litter brown of the forest floor was everywhere dotted with green, the fresh, hardy green of spring ephemerals. While it is the rarer prima donnas among these plants—the tall, exotic-looking lady slipper and tender trillium—that garner almost all of the attention, it is the ubiquitous spring ephemerals, the ones that confidently blanket the boarders of the woods, that make my heart lift each May.
They are called spring ephemerals because they must do all their work of living–corkscrewing up through the dead leaves, unfurling, blooming, fruiting, spreading their rhizomes–in the short span of time between when the ground has thawed in spring and before the forest canopy leafs out in full, blocking the needed sunlight. My two favorite ephemerals, abundant here in Maine, are the Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), a member of the lily family with a lily’s thick, deep-green leaves, and the more delicate starflower (Trientalis borealis). The starflower bears one or two white, star-shaped blossoms on slender stalks above a whorl of pointed oval leaves.
The pale woods flames green
all over its brown leaf floor—