As the snow melts and the puddles form, start looking around for plants peeking out of the snow. In Wisconsin, we are very fortunate to have many ephemeral spring-blooming plants native to our wooded areas. Ephemeral plants are perennial plants that emerge quickly in Spring before the trees leaf out. The ephemeral plants transition quickly from covering the forest floor with colorful blossoms to dying back to their roots once the heat of the summer arrives.
The first tender plants you should be on the lookout for are Snowdrops. The dainty white flower heads peek out of the snow in mild temperatures. They are a beacon of hope in the seemingly, everlasting winter. As the snow melts and the soil temperatures rise, start looking for Bloodroot, Wild Ginger, Trout Lily, Spring Beauties, Trillium, Virginia Bluebells, Jack in the Pulpit, Dutchman’s Breeches, and Siberian Squill. All of these ephemeral flowers emerge quickly, and their blossoms are very short-lived, so you want to catch them while you can. After blossoming, the foliage may stick around with cooler temperatures and shade from the canopies above, but once the summer heat moves in, most of the plants will die back to the ground and go dormant. Only a select few plants can keep their foliage all summer long.
Take a break from gazing at the ground, and look above you; there are many growth transitions taking place above us as well. Look at the tree canopies. Do you see anything happening? The maple tree buds should be bursting with red hues, just waiting for bloom time. If you look near wetland areas, you should find some fuzzy white buds popping on the stems of Pussy Willows. As the weather gets warmer, the buds get larger and start to produce pollen. Oaks have clusters of tan and brown buds that swell to create interest in the canopy. Linden trees or basswoods have a glossy red bud that will catch your eye as you walk amongst the trees. Eventually, as the buds swell, blossoms will emerge, and they will undergo pollination. Flowering structures may consist of tiny florets, showy flower petals, or catkins dangling in the wind. Keep an eye out for these amazing Spring transformations.