Our campus emptied out this afternoon as spring break began. After a few hours of cleaning the lab, answering emails, and pushing papers from one place to another I finally cracked (or woke up) and set out for the woods to enjoy some reality.
Spring ephemeral wildflowers covered the forest floor. In the richer areas, each palm-sized patch of forest had a dozen blooms crowded together. There are few places in the world that rival the profusion of blooms in this north-facing Appalachian cove (and the snails, insects and salamanders that ply the leaf litter below the flowers are equally diverse).
These “ephemeral” wildflowers are hurrying through their flowering and photosynthesizing in the short weeks that remain before the tree canopy steals all their light. But the plants don’t disappear for the rest of the year. Instead, most of them persist underground in roots and swollen stems. So, the “ephemerals” appear to be short-lived, but are in fact many years old, perhaps as old as many of the trees that loom over them.