If you follow the blog for any length of time, you probably know spring wildflowers are my favorites - not only are they beautiful but they are the sign that warm days are to come! After April and May we tend to divert our attention to the new things that are emerging, new plants, new birds, etc.
So what happens to the spring wildflowers after spring?
That is an interesting question that is going to take us to a few different places, hold on, let's go!
In the spring, it's dark (but getting lighter), it's cold (but getting warmer), and some mornings it's hard to leave the bed (or in the case of flowers, the ground). How, after a long winter do these beautiful, showy, flowering plants have the strength to push up through the nearly frozen ground to bloom? The bloodroot for instance, in the spring you'll see the flower rise up and bloom before the leaf unfurls from the stem. If we think back to elementary school science we know that plants need sunlight to grow and gain strength, that basically the leaves are like solar panels channeling energy through the plant, so how does the bloodroot bloom and grow with no leaf present?
The secret to these early spring bloomers can be found in fall.
Through the summer you'll find that many plants shoot right up, grow, then die and are gone for another season - cleavers or bedstraw is a good example of that. Just after the spring bloom the cleavers with their 'sticky' vines rise up and cover everything, in about a month's time they grow, cover, bloom, seed, and by the end of the next month you can hardly find a trace of them. If you look under all the summer growers, you'll find the wide leaves of the spring bloomers still holding strong. Even after a full summer season has come and gone you'll be able to find the leaves of these modest plants. Granted, you won't be able to find all the spring bloomers in the fall.
Why, after all the other plants have tried to crowd them out, do we still find these plants growing long after their bloom & seed? To gather and store energy. Thats right, these plants grow and gather as much sunlight and energy through the span of the year so that when spring comes around again, and all the leaves are gone from the trees, they can send out all that energy to grow and bloom as fast as they can so they can soak up the sunlight before the trees fill out and their sunlight will be highly limited.
Now not all spring flowers go this route, for example the squirrel corn and dutchman's breeches use their far reaching feathery leaves to spread out and gather as much light as they can, then once they bloom and seed they die back until next year.
Check out the photos below of how they look in spring - vs - now!
Discover new and interesting things about the world around you.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who spends her time exploring and learning about the unique history and nature in North East Ohio. She lives with her husband and cat in Wooster where she is also a family portrait and nature photographer as well as grows and cans her own vegetables. When she's not doing that, yoga and embroidery (not at the same time) are other things she enjoys.