Spring won’t officially arrive until the Vernal Equinox, which occurs on March 20 this year, but some Missouri wildflowers just won’t wait. I received a report yesterday that the unpretentious harbinger of spring (Erigenia bulbosa) is just beginning to flower in mid-Missouri. A perennial early bloomer, as its name implies, in some years it can be found in flower during February. Another common name is “salt and pepper,” due to the small white flowers with dark-colored stamens. It can be difficult to spot, often growing less than 6 inches tall when flowering in moist, forested sites.
Several other wildflowers are likely to be blooming this month, including serviceberry, spring beauty, bloodroot, liverleaf, false rue anemone, toothwort, bluebells, rose verbena, fragrant sumac, pussytoes, trout lily and dutchman’s britches. Some of these can be found on the moist forest floor of ravines or valleys, while others grow on higher and drier sites, even on thin soils near bedrock exposures.
If you’ve been wishing to learn to identify wildflowers, this is the time of the year to take action. The flowering is just beginning and there will be a progression of wildflowers from now until late June, when summer heat and drought begins to reduce flowering. Woodland wildflowers are most abundant before the tree canopy leafs out and reduces light reaching the forest floor. Grab a wildflower guide and explore a conservation area, state park or national forest near you. If you take a hike every other week, you’ll be guaranteed to see new species on each trip. Here’s a link that may help you identify your discoveries based on flower color and arrangement of leaves on the stem.