Signs of Spring in the Native Plant Garden

Guest Blog by Rachel Shaw

This past weekend I was searching hard for signs of spring in my yard. My crocuses had been in their glory until they got chomped by something. Boo. Daffodils, of course; nothing is more cheering than their bright faces at the end of winter.

What about natives? I was happy to see one already in bloom: the aptly named Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) pictured here.

These delicate little plants are only a few inches tall, with leaves like slender blades of grass, and pretty-in-pink petals (actually white or light pink striped with darker pink.)  I had almost forgotten about them; they are among the more ephemeral of spring ephemerals. Once the flower is gone the grass-like leaves are not very noticeable, and these also soon disappear for the rest of the season.

Spring Beauty prefers moist soil and sun to part-shade, but based on its wide distribution – Eastern U.S. and Canada to Texas – it is not terribly fussy. The little clump I found blooming was nestled against the step up to our patio, probably giving it a little more warmth and sunlight than the original patch, a few feet away. (This is one plant I would be glad to have spread a little more as it is so unproblematic, unlike some of my well-loved but more rambunctious natives.)

A relative, Claytonia caroliniana, or Carolina Spring Beauty, is somewhat less widely distributed and can be identified by its ovoid leaf. Corms of the Claytonia species were a food source for Native Americans; they are said to be both nutritious and tasty when cooked, but I have no intention of digging up these sweet little plants to find out!

Once I started searching, I saw shoots of other natives that must have been emerging even as the last late snow was melting. A couple, like Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla), have flower buds and will be blooming soon. (The Twinleaf will come and go in the blink of an eye, going almost immediately from flower to exploded seed capsule, leaving behind the beautiful divided leaf into early summer.) Others, like Columbine, (Aquilegia canadensis), won’t bloom for a few more weeks; the Scarlett Beebalm, (Monarda didyma) won’t flower until early summer. 

What native plants are getting a spring start in your yard, nearby park, or wooded area?

About the Author
Rachel Shaw focuses on vegetable gardening and growing native plants in her small yard in Rockville, MD. She blogs at This guest blog post is part of a monthly Native Plants series that Rachel will be posting here on the 10th of each month.



Anonymous said…
The earliest wildflower I see in my yard is the lovely wild blue violet. Many curse this as a weed but I welcome both the groundcover and the burst of color in early spring.

Kit said…
Virginia Bluebells - Mertensia virginica! Trillium almost blooming. Several relatives of the bleeding heart - Dicentra eximia, cucularia and canadensis are up in bud. Wild Ginger up and in its fuzziest best.
Botania said…
Marney - are the violets that typically show up in our yards native? I know there are lots of different violet species but I don't know anything about identifying them.

Kit - great that you have Bluebells blooming and the Trillium are almost there. It sounds like your yard is quite a bit further along than mine. But my Bloodroot and Twinleaf did bloom today!

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