Springing to Life
Marla Mertz, Marion County Conservation
Nothing like taking a deep breath of early spring air! Fresh, new, and exciting things happening. Most spring happenings go by so quickly we miss many of the ‘new beginnings.’
Our earliest spring flowering plants arrived about 3 to 4 weeks later than normal. The tiny and delicate looking snow trillium is one of the first bloomers on the woodland floor. Typically the trillium will appear in mid-March through snow covered ground. This year, the first trillium located in Marion County was April 20. Once these began blooming, the rest of the woodland floor was going to play catch-up and within a week the fast-paced bloomers were on a roll!
We call our first spring wildflowers ephemerals. It’s a fancy name for being short-lived.
Our ephemeral flowers must erupt, bloom, and go to seed before the canopy of the woodland leaves shields them from the sun. Most of the flowering lasts only a few days, but leaves will continue to grow and store more energy for blooms the next spring season. If you have the grand opportunity to walk the woodland on a nice day during the beginning of blooms, it’s almost enchanting to see the scurrying of flies, bee mimics, and bees beginning their journey to gather food for their own kind, but also to begin the vital process of pollination.
Approximately 80 percent of our flowering plants rely on pollinators. Bees, beetles, bats, birds, moths, and others are vital to our world’s ecosystems. This percentage includes most of the food crops (fruits, grains, vegetables) that we rely on and others play a key role in our natural ecosystems.
The woodland floor is our first flowering ecosystem.
Check out these Google Photos albums!
The flowering of our trees begin the next level of pollination. Prairie forbs will begin blooming in mid-June to carry on the finale of pollination. It’s time to find a log to sit on, listen to the migration of birds, and the constant buzzing and dance of the pollinators. It’s a busy time for all.
Links for learning:
Iowa DNR publication Iowa’s woodlands Vital Habitat for Native Pollinators (opens as PDF)
Iowa Association of Naturalists Iowa Plant Series - Iowa’s Spring Wildflowers