Spring Starts from the Ground Up


Spring starts on the forest floor.
FIrst signs of spring start on the forest floor.

Spring starts from the ground up. The first signs of spring are often right at your feet. From now until the end of spring, I’ll be looking for the signs of the great awakening of life.

First Signs of Spring in the Forest

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)
Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) in my garden. A spring ephemeral.

Spring Ephemeral Flowers

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, along with tree flowers, provide for the early flying insects.

Sunlight on the Forest Floor

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.

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

Spring woodland flower at Temple University Ambler
Spring woodland flower at Temple University Ambler

First Signs of Spring and the Nature Journal

Keeping a spring 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.

Originally published in May 2018. Updated. 

More Spring Information

Nature in Spring: An Overview

Robins, Worms, and Rain

Spring Birding and Nature Journal Prompts

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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