It looked pretty different this time around; their woodland-dominated landscape was still bright and sunny in the last weeks before the trees leafed out. So while most plants were just breaking their winter dormancy, it was a great time to see the spring ephemerals put on a show. These are the plants that take advantage of the brief window in woodland areas between when the weather and soil warm up and the trees fully leaf out and cast shade over the ground.
Trilliums (a.k.a. wake-robins or toadshades) are the classic example. They appear in early spring on the forest floor, rapidly complete their full flowering cycle, and enter dormancy as their leaves, stems, and flowers wither away, leaving no trace by early summer.
Mt. Cuba has a great selection of ephemerals. Virginia bluebells, Quaker ladies (houstonia), bloodroots, and other species carpet the forest floors.
Other spring flowering plants, like the woodland phlox species, foamflowers, and celandine poppies which were blooming in abundance this weekend, stick around after flowering, and their foliage provides a nice groundcover throughout the summer.
It was also a great time to see other parts of the landscape waking up. Fern fiddleheads were unrolling everywhere you looked, trees and shrubs were beginning to flower, and leaf buds were opening up.
Mt. Cuba Center‘s gardens are open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am – 4 pm, April-November 19. We recommend bringing a picnic lunch if you’re headed out on a nice day. Mt. Cuba also offers classes year-round in ecological gardening, conservation, art and more.