The earliest ephemerals are out and blooming a few hundred miles away, in South Carolina, but it’ll be a few more weeks before they start blooming here in the mid-Atlantic. Here’s a sneak preview of what’s to come, presented more or less in the order in which they bloom. All of these should be blooming by the end of March at the latest.

Erigenia bulbosa (harbinger-of-spring, pepper and salt; Apiaceae)

One of the first up, sometimes as early as late February. Look for it in moist woods but you have to be eagle-eyed to spot it (note the dime sitting there for scale). Just as I was finishing this post, a friend reported seeing harbinger blooming here in the Maryland Piedmont today!

Anemone americana (round-lobe hepatica; Ranunculaceae)

A hibernal plant; the leaves usually wither away by the time the flowers bloom, or soon after. If you see the leaves now, note the location and check back in a few weeks for the flowers.



Lindera benzoin (spicebush; Lauraceae)

Don’t forget to look up once in awhile! This very common understory shrub is one of the first plants to bloom in our area.


Arabidopsis lyrata (lyre-leaved rockcress; Brassicaceae)

This plant has a long bloom period, often starting early in the season. Look for it growing right on large rocks, as the common name suggests. The sight of a mass of these delicate blossoms dancing in even the slightest breeze fills me with joy.

Cardamine concatenata (cut-leaf toothwort; Brassicaceae)

Such a dainty thing.




Corydalis flavula (short-spurred corydalis and many other common names; Papaveraceae)

Another petite flower, easy to miss. You have to get very close to see all the ornate details.


Micranthes virginiensis (early saxifrage; Saxifragaceae)

This fine specimen is one of the largest I’ve seen. I usually find them in rocky places.


Dicentra canadensis (squirrel corn; Papaveraceae)

The delicate, lacy, ferny foliage is almost identical to that of Dutchman’s breeches; you have to see the plants flowering to tell them apart with confidence.


Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman’s breeches; Papaveraceae)

From my limited observation, this species is usually waning when squirrel corn is just getting started. There’s a hillside on the Cabin John Trail that’s covered in these plants.

Next time, more teasers.

One More Fumitory


Monday morning I went out to shoot a very special plant (like I did with white trout lily the previous week), and was surprised to find a large number of short-spurred corydalis growing with it (more on the other plant next time).

Also known as yellow corydalis, yellow fumewort, yellow fumitory, and yellow harlequin, Corydalis flavula is a small annual forb, growing to about a foot tall and bearing flowers in racemes. The flowers are about a quarter to a half inch long.

C. flavula is in the Papaveraceae, closely related to the Dicentra species I wrote about a few days ago. Like other species in the fumitory sub-family, it has two very short sepals, two inner petals, and two outer petals. One of the outer petals is spurred and one isn’t. The leaves are typical of the fumitories as well, compound with lobed leaflets, giving a ferny look to the plant.

This might be an example of a disymmetric flower, with two perpendicular planes of symmetry. So help me I’m tempted to go find one and dissect it, because I’ve never been able to get a detailed enough photo. Disymmetric or no, it certainly is complicated.

I’m not sure how many species of Corydalis are found in Maryland. BONAP shows only C. flavula present, while Maryland Biodiversity Project lists one other but has no records for it, and USDA PLANTS shows two others. C. flavula ranges from northern Florida to New York, and west as far as the eastern Great Plains. It’s threatened in Connecticut and Michigan.