Wednesday, March 16, 2011
The photos have started trickling into my email inbox: harbinger of spring (Erigenia bulbosa) is in bloom now, officially ushering in spring wildflower season. Last week, I saw my first strappy Claytonialeaves poking through one year‘s worth of leaf litter, and (thanks to the cold weather) vernal witch hazel was still in bloom on an igneous knob. I actually haven't seen harbinger of spring yet this year, so I borrowed the lovely photo from one of Missouri's finest naturalists and all around stellar guy, John Oliver.
Harbinger of spring is a member of the carrot family with typical finely incised, fernlike leaves that appear after the flower is in bloom. It’s not a particularly noticeable flower, the small, white florets with bulging maroon anthers. Many people miss it on early spring hikes through Ozark woodlands. Look for it at the base of slopes, or along creekbeds.
Harbinger of spring is a perennial plant that sprouts from a tuber (hence the name bulbosa). While it is not one of the more commonly encountered spring wildflowers in the Ozarks, harbinger of spring is not rare in Missouri, though listed as such in Wisconsin.
Unlike several other spring ephemerals, harbinger of spring does not grow in large colonies that carpet the woodland floor (such as spring beauty. I can't tell you whether deer like it, but I imagine the fleshy stems and supple flowers look like ice cream to them in an otherwise brown landscape.
Posted by Allison Vaughn at 8:45 PM