Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

16 May

A gorgeous and short-flowring tiny forest floor plant. I only know of one nerby location for it and I am not letting on … it is close to one of the main arbofretum trails and so vulnerable.

Habitats include moist to dry deciduous woodlands, savannas, thinly wooded bluffs, city parks, old cemeteries, and lawns (particularly near trees). Less often, this species is found in mesic prairies, but it is primarily a woodland plant. Spring Beauty can survive more environmental degradation than most spring-blooming woodland species, including occasional grazing by cattle and partial clearing of trees.

When Spring Beauty and these other wildflowers are conspicuously absent from a woodlands, this indicates that it has been subjected to severe degradation from plows or bulldozers at some point in the past. In Illinois, Spring Beauty is a unique member of the Purslane family that is easy to distinguish from other wildflowers. Look for pink-stripes, whether pale or bright, on the petals of the flowers, and only 2 sepals underneath. In southeastern and other parts of the United States, there is a closely related wildflower, Claytonia carolina (Carolina Beauty). This latter species has a similar appearance to Spring Beauty, but it doesn’t occur in Illinois. The leaves of Carolina Beauty are usually broader than those of Spring Beauty.