Ephemeral feelings at DCP


By Mitch Pence

Darke County Parks

There are many moments in nature that you never see. What makes a hike in the woods a magical experience is when you find yourself amid one of these moments. In fact, there is a term for things that last but for a short moment in time. The word “ephemeral” by definition means, “lasting a short period of time” and I think the word itself even holds a magic of its own.

The time is fast approaching for our spring ephemerals to begin popping up across the preserves. Of course, I am talking about our earliest spring wildflowers! These small and delicate flowers only bloom for a brief moment in time when temperatures are consistently high enough to bring about the first warm spring rains but before the sun is stolen by the canopy of trees above. Coinciding with the annual salamander run, our spring ephemerals use the early spring weather as a trigger that the dormant time of winter is over.

If you find yourself in any of the preserves through March and April, be on the lookout for splashes of white, violet, and yellow. The first of these flowers to be on the lookout for is appropriately named the “Harbinger of Spring” and just barely pokes out above the leaf litter. This tiny flower is easily overlooked, yet upon closer inspection, reveals a fragile beauty reserved only for those who are willing to hike slowly and visit with them against the forest floor. Along with the tiny Harbinger of Spring, other more showy wildflowers also begin to bring life back to a long barren landscape.

I am a fan of all our spring ephemerals, each for different reasons. I enjoy seeing the Shooting Star in the pollinator meadow out front that greets me before work. I smile at the silly shape of the Dutchman’s Breeches and their uncanny resemblance to pantaloons hung out to dry. I am thoughtful when I see swaths of Bloodroot and remember their medicinal properties utilized by early Native Americans. Some flowers are dramatic and beg for my attention like Trout Lily, while others take over the forest floor in a grand show of numbers like Spring Beauty.

Eventually, as you hike the woodland trails, you will discover your favorite spring wildflower. Maybe you already have one! I have discovered that mine is trilliums. The “tri” in trillium of course calls attention to the fact that these ephemeral flowers bloom with three leaves and three petals on the flower. Each species has something different to offer and makes for great photo ops. A particular favorite of mine, Sessile Trillium, is a peculiar flower with mottling on its leaves and a delicate red flower on top. While this alone makes it worth stopping to see, it also holds the nickname of “Toad Shade.” If you are like me and have an active imagination, the thought of American Toads using Sessile Trillium like an umbrella during a spring deluge may also bring you joy. I invite everyone to go looking for Sessile Trillium as well as the other trilliums as spring weather begins to warm the Earth.

Whether you are familiar with our native spring wildflowers, or plan to go exploring after reading this article, I can guarantee that you will find your own magical experience. Maybe you will discover your own favorite flower, or hear the whispers of the wind through pine needles. Perhaps you’ll be the only one who sees a buck bounding through the forest, or witness a Great Blue Heron feeding in the creek. Whatever it may be, the only way to find out what kind of experience is waiting for you is to get out and discover your own ephemeral feelings.

No posts to display