An Illustrated Guide to Spring Ephemerals

A Visual Journey Through Native Plants and the Pollinators They Support

back to list
Resized - 1800 ·  An Illustrated Guide to Spring Ephemerals
Jin H.
12 Apr 2024 News, Research, All

The first signs of Spring in the Northeast are marked by the emergence of flowers like forsythias, daffodils, and hyacinths. They stud our parks, planter beds, and road medians with their trademark colors -- heralds of warmer weather and future foliage. If you go hiking around this time of year, you may find trilliums or Dutchman’s breeches emerging from a blanket of brown leaf litter. These woodland wildflowers are called spring ephemerals. They have evolved to complete a portion of their life cycle during this time -- before trees flush out their leaves and when sunlight can still reach the forest floor. 

Left to Right: Forsythia by liz west, Daffodils by K. Mitch Hodge, Hyacinth by The wub.


This diagram (above) is a celebration of Spring ephemerals, as well as a nod to the entangled relationships they have with our multi-legged cohabitors (i.e. insects). Spring ephemerals play an especially important role in that respect, oftentimes serving as a first food source for pollinators post-winter hibernation. 

Left to Right, Trout Lily Pollinators: Miner Bee by Mary Anne Borge, Mason Bee by Judy Gallagher, Bumblebee by Ivar Leidus.


Below are some some personal favorites:

1. Erythronium americanumthe trout lily

Photo by Patti Black.

2. Podophyllum peltatum, mayapple

Photo by Wasrts.

3. Dicentra cucullaria, Dutchman's britches, or Dutchman's breeches

Photo by Catie Drew.

4. Geranium maculatumthe wild geranium

Photo by PhotoDoc.


While I may not be a botanist or ecologist, I do believe landscape architects & designers should play a pivotal role in supporting ecological communities within the built environment. We need to go beyond traditional garden design and create work that is unapologetic about its advocacy for biodiversity and wildlife. 


Check out the diagram on instagram: Marvel (@marvel_is_design)

We use our own and third party cookies to improve your browsing. If you continue browsing we consider that you accept the use of cookies. More info. Ok