Left to right: White Trout Lily, Jack in the Pulpit, Large Bellwort, Wild Sweet William

By Tammy Thompson

Aptly-named, spring ephemerals are perennials that complete their life cycle in just a short time. Most emerge, bloom, and set seed in a matter of weeks, lying dormant the rest of the season. Found near forested trails and woodlands, catching them in their full glory feels like catching magic! Oh yeah…they are also the primary food and nectar source for pollinators in early spring!

The list of spring ephemerals in the lower Midwest is longer than one expects. Most of us have heard of Sweet William, Virginia Bluebells and Trout Lily. But these only scratch the surface of what spring offers.

Sometimes it’s hard to know when to venture out to see these short-lived treasures!

Here are some of the ephemerals that grow in this area and the timeframes they generally flower.

Spring Beauty (February-May)
Bloodroot (March-April)
White Trout Lily/White Dogtooth Violet (March to May)
Dutchman’s Breeches (March-May)
Virginia Bluebells (March-June)
False Rue Anemone (March-May)
May Apple (March-May)
Toothwort (March-May)
Jack in the Pulpit (April to June)
Trillium/Wake Robin (April-June)
Large Bellwort (April to May)
Wild Sweet William (April to June)

*Source Missouri Department of Conservation

You now know when to start looking, but where can you see some of these fabulous spring ephemeral shows! There’s something close no matter where you live. Here are a few sites.

Isley Park Woods-Excelsior Springs
Hidden Valley Park-KC (North)
Powell Gardens-Kingsville
Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary-Liberty
Lakeside Nature Center-Kansas City
KC WildLands – iNat Umbrella Project (several locations in KC area)
Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area – Blue Springs
Overland Park Arboretum
Shawnee Mission Park-Shawnee
Ernie Miller Park & Nature Center-Olathe
Wyandotte County Lake-Kansas City
Kaw River State Park Trail-Topeka
Dyck Arboretum-Hesston
Perry Lake Park-Perry
Clinton State Park-Clinton
Indian Cave State Park-Shubert
Fontenelle Forest-Bellevue
Lauritzen Gardens-Omaha

Many of these places host guided nature hikes and show you all the beautiful hiding places! Check them out AND BE RESPECTFUL of these delicate spaces. Stay on trails, don’t venture on closed trails, and avoid trails that are muddy.

So! Get out and hike a woodland near you and bottle up a dose of spring hope!