Ephemeral Mania

by Patti Beedles, Kansas City WildLands Seed Tech

Listen my friends, I have a plea. Pull yourselves from your cubicles, your screens, your stuffy house that’s held you hostage all winter long. Now’s the time to take a hike through a high-quality woodland and witness true magic. I realize, I’m a crazy plant lady with enthusiasm for even the most insignificant green things. Seriously though, keep reading only if you’re willing to fall in love with the earliest wildflowers.

Excuse me while I profess my unabashed adoration for spring ephemerals. For those unfamiliar, this spectacular group of plants has evolved to complete their above ground growth and reproduction in a very short span of time. These durable little plants grow, flower, fruit and seed, all before the canopy of the trees steals the sunlight for themselves. Spring ephemerals cannot be separated from their remarkable adaptations to growing in such tough conditions, and their fleeting nature makes them even more desirable to witness.

In some ways, I’m embarrassed by the love I feel toward plants, especially the oddballs who’ve found their niche, just like me. Most of the time though, I go through a Beatlemania type craze for the earliest of spring flowers. Call me crazy, but I’ve been bottled up in my house for the grueling winter, starved from witnessing much photosynthetic energy. So what, a flower sends me over the edge of excitement this time of year. Yes, I realize soon I’ll be swimming though the great flower seas of the remnant prairies in Kansas City. For now though, please do take the time to adventure in this narrow window, and seek out some of these transitory plants. You can find me swooning in the woods.

Sanguinaria canadensis, commonly called Bloodroot, pops up from underneath the oak leaves. These gorgeous white flowers are hard to miss, standing boldly and calling out to the brave pollinators who also awaken so early in spring.


The dime sized flowers of Claytonia virginica, are often sprinkled among other ephemeral species. Appropriately called Spring Beauty, these seemingly simple flowers require a closer look to appreciate the vivid lavender stripes on the petals. Tiny, yes, but oh so charming.

Spring Beauty

Asarum canadense, or Wild Ginger, is such a muppet of a plant. When it first emerges, the leaves cuddle together like the shells of a clam. Just look at those silvery hairs and the discreet, ground-level bud. The flowers are stunning, but easily overlooked because they occur so modestly, under the dark green heart-shaped leaves.

Wild Ginger

Difficult to overlook are Virginia Bluebells, Mertensia virginica. A virtual rainbow of bloom, my favorite part of this plant is its transformation from fuchsia to sky blue within a single inflorescence. All set on the backdrop of velvet-green, spinach-like leaves.

Virginia Bluebells

Dicentra cucullaria, called Dutchman’s Breeches for obvious and hilarious reasons, hang out on their miniature clotheslines throughout high-quality woodlands. If forest fairies are real, I’m glad they don’t have a shortage of adorable white trousers to choose from.

Dutchmen’s Breeches

I can tell you it’s hard to choose such a small handful of species to share with you, but we’d be here for days in you’d let me. So check them out before they disappear until next spring.

You can find these and many other stunning spring wildflowers at Kansas City WildLands’ forest and woodland sites. Click here to find a WildLands site near you!