Mostly Native Spring Ephemera

The previous post dealt with mostly traditional, old-fashioned flowers. This one will cover the native ephemera and Iris cristata, which is native to the US, but not to Michigan, although it thrives here. Oh, yes—and a tiny volunteer rose—I have no idea where it came from.

The native plants that come up in early spring come up with flower buds in place. They also tend to be quite red—I have always suspected that this is to prevent starving rabbits from mowing them all down. They seem to mow down every green thing they see, and I don’t even know if they can see color.

Rue anemones

Rue anemones seed in, but not obnoxiously.
The flowers start out pink, surrounded by red leaves. As the rue anemone matures, the red pigment fades; the flowers age to white, and the leaves turn green.

Rue anemone come up as a ring of leaves around a big flower bud. Photographed on April 7, 2023.

When the leaves unfurl, they look a great deal like those of meadow rue or eastern columbines, but these plants cannot be mistaken for each other. Meadow rue is quite tall—roughly four feet—and blooms in May. Columbines come up a little later than rue anemone, but not with flower buds leading the way.

Rue anemone with young, fully opened flowers. Photographed on April 12, 2023.

Dutchman’s breeches

The flower buds on Dutchman’s breeches look like little beads to me. They morph from beads to breeches in a matter of days.

Dutchman’s breeches’ flower buds. Photographed on April 17, 2023.
Dutchman’s breeches in full bloom. Photographed on April 19, 2023.

As I write this exactly a month later, there are only a few yellowed leaves left to the Dutchman’s breeches. They will reappear next April.

A volunteer rose

Last summer I spotted a rose seedling where the dwarf Japanese Solomon’s seal meets and mingles with the rue anemones and the Dutchman’s breeches. The rabbits mowed it down sometime in the early winter. I figured we had seen the last of it, but I was wrong.

The rose foliage has five or six leaflets attached to reddish petioles poking out just below and also to the left of the tallest dwarf Japanese Solomon’s seal. Photographed on May 10, 2023.

No wonder the rabbits haven’t found it. What a tangle!

Trout lilies

Trout lilies are not one of my great successes. On the other hand, maybe that depends on how you define successful. If successful means it reproduces, then they are successful. There are at least seven that started with one.

Trout lily leaves are speckled and as sleek as trout. They have been lurking in the undergrowth for years. Trillium and Dutchman’s breeches’ foliage are to the left of the line of trout lilies, and the rue anemones are to the right. Photographed on May 5, 2023.

On the other hand, in a flower garden, successful may mean it blooms, which trout lilies have never done in this yard.


I am very fond of trillium. They have formed a nice little colony around the spot where the pawpaw stood. They are successful by any standard.

Trillium in bud, nestled in Dutchman’s breeches. Photographed on April 17, 2023.
Trillium in their prime. Photographed on May 5, 2023.

As trillium age, the petals seem to get a little longer and they turn pink. The darker the pink, the older the flower.

Aging trillium, which are turning pink, surrounded by ephemera. Left, rue anemone; bottom right, dwarf Japanese Solomon’s seal; top right, Dutchman’s breeches. Photographed on May 13, 2023.


One of the surprises this spring was a eastern columbine blooming several yards from its predecessors. Columbines seem to migrate around this yard, but the eastern columbines stay in the pawpaw bed, moving around but never getting numerous.

An eastern columbine glows in early morning light. Photographed on May 10, 2023.

Shooting stars

There are shooting stars intermixed with the Pennsylvania sedge, which is very nice. Shooting star flowers are nifty, but their foliage is scruffy and weedy looking. The Pennsylvania sedge has beautiful foliage and hides the scruffy parts of the shooting stars beautifully.

Shooting star flowers and Pennsylvania sedge foliage are a cheery combination. Photographed on May 10, 2023.

Iris cristata

The plant that bridges the gap between the spring ephemera and late spring flowers is Iris cristata. While it is not native to this area, it is native to areas fairly nearby.

Crested iris multiply happily on our gravelly glacial outwash. They have spread to the railroad tie that delineates my neighbor’s driveway. Photographed on May 10, 2023.

The pawpaw bed has two swaths of Iris cristata, which bloom enthusiastically in the partial sun. Here is part of the patch that gets dappled morning sun.

Iris cristata sparkle like little purple asterisks when you look down at a newly blooming patch. Photographed on May 15, 2023.

Things are changing rapidly. All of the early and mid-spring flowers are fading, to be replaced by much bigger plants. More on that in a week or two.