Spring starts on the forest floor.

Spring Starts from the Ground Up

Christmas Fern (Polystichum astrostichoides)
Christmas Fern (Polystichum astrostichoides)

Originally published in May 2018

From now until the end of spring, I’ll be looking for the signs of the great awakening of life.

Spring starts from the ground up. The first signs are often right at your feet.

Spring in the forest follows a clear pattern progressing from the bottom to top of the tree canopy.  The layer of herbaceous plants close to the ground first shows signs of green followed by the shrubs, then the small understory trees and finally the tall tree canopy above.

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica ) - a spring ephemeral
Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica ) – a spring ephemeral

Spring ephemeral flowers display green first. Spring ephemerals are those plants that shoot up quickly in early spring, bloom, disperse seed and disappear without a trace. But, the ephemerals are above ground and blooming long enough to provide nectar and pollen for the newly emerged bumblebees.

The spring ephemeral flowers bloom along with tree flowers provide for the early flying insects.

Before the trees are fully covered in leaves, a large quantity of sunlight reaches the forest floor. In a mature forest when the canopy is completely leafed out as little as 1% of sunlight striking the top of the tree canopy strikes the forest floor. The remaining 99% is absorbed almost totally by the canopy leaves.

spring woodland
spring woodland

The trees may have been cut down over most of the Delaware Valley region, but plants maintain the same biological time clock.

Keeping a nature journal at this time of year is a record of just how quickly things change. And noting when the plants bloom in the spring will create a blooming calendar. The flowers will bloom in a timely manner, year after year.

And next year you will know that the snowdrops and crocuses will bloom before the tulips.

I bought this book on spring wildflowers when it was first published. It has wonderful information on the plants. SInce the book is out of print, the price of the book has skyrocketed. I include this link in case one day a reasonable price, maybe with a paperback edition, will make this book affordable.

One comment

  1. Donna, I love your photos and comments…you are still ahead of us by a month or so, but thanks for the beautiful taste of what is coming soon….that woodland garden is absolutely breathtaking!

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