Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ephemeral


Spring beauties are another of the early ephemerals currently in bloom, with us for only brief time but utterly delightful to encounter on a woodland walk.

They are small plants, only reaching 6-7 inches tall. They have two opposite, smooth and slender, grasslike leaves. Several flowers may be found on each plant. The flower buds tilt gracefully down before blooming and then lift their heads to look up when the blooms open. Even though the size of the flowers is only about a half inch across, they still stand out in the woods.

Their Latin name is Claytonia Virginica, named for John Clayton. He was a government official in Virginia with an interest in botany. He collected plant specimens, sending them on to a botanist to name and categorize. Claytonia Virginica was named for him in 1739. The common name, Spring Beauty, is obvious.

Spring beauties are not only a beautiful spring ephemeral, but reported to be a tasty spud-like vegetable. The tubers, or the fleshy underground stem or root that provides nutrition to the plant, are a half inch to two inches in diameter, and are often compared to radishes or small potatoes. They are said to taste much sweeter than the average spud - more like a chestnut than potato - and are rich in nutrients including potassium, calcium and vitamins A and C. I've never tasted them, I'd need to be desperate before I could bear to dig up such a lovely plant.



Just for fun, here's a link to a tutorial from Toad Hollow Studio, on drawing a spring beauty.

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