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April showers, short-lived flowers

Maybe you forgot during this week’s rain and hail, but it is in fact spring! While you were busy burying your head in the hood of your jacket, you might have looked down by your feet to see the beautiful little blue flowers that have sprung up all over campus. Don’t feel too guilty for enjoying them, but those little beauties are actually an invasive by the name of Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica). Though pretty on its own, Siberian Squill can crowd out the native spring ephemeral flowers that are also blooming or about to bloom.

These spring ephemerals are named as such due to their short flowering period. Though many of the flowers you’ll start to see in the Arb this term are considered to be ephemerals, many of the prairie flowers are not. In fact, ephemerals are typically woodland species. As warmer weather moves in, ephemerals such as bloodroot, dutchman’s breeches, and trout lily (to name a few of many), bloom on the forest floor. These flowers don’t last for long and the tree canopy soon leafs out and once again throws the forest floor into shade. Usually, the flower and leaves of the ephemerals then die down, and these short lived flowers retreat underground until next spring’s sunlight hits the forest floor.

Though already fading, spring ephemerals in the Arb can be hard to come by in areas that have been overtaken by invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn. These shrubs leaf out earlier than most native trees and shrubs, blocking the brief sunlight that ephemerals rely on. If you’d like to find the transient beauty of these wildflowers for yourself, Best Woods and Stork Forest (see map below) may be the best places to look. Resist the urge to pick them and opt for a photo instead.

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