Woodland Ephemerals – A Springtime Nature Walk Through a Great Lakes Hardwood Forest

This video essay and brief description below were contributed by Matthew Kern, Production Assistant, UpNorth Media Center, LIAA.

This spring I set out to find new pockets of forest with diverse woodland wildflowers. To scout I often turn to satellite images, searching for the largest patches of uninterrupted tree canopy. One such patch near Mesick caught my eye and I decided to take a closer look.

I was rewarded with the largest assortment of woodland wildflowers that I have seen anywhere in the central Great Lakes (many more species than are shown in the video). To see such a wide assortment in one place was truly breath-taking. Most of the flowers that I saw are considered “spring ephemerals,” which is a fancy term for wildflowers that only poke their heads out of the ground for a few weeks each spring. Before the tree canopy fills in with leaves they gather as much sunshine as they can, put out flowers to be pollinated, and produce seed, all in a matter of weeks. Then their aerial parts quickly die back and they spend the rest of the year underground.

Because this moment was quickly fleeting, I knew that I had to go back with a camera. For the forests, the most flower-filled time of year is already over. So, if you missed out this year, try to remember to visit a hardwood forest next May. And, when you find an exciting patch of woodland wildflowers, try to visit it every year. Take note of what you observe, when different species are blooming, and what birds are singing.

[Publisher’s Note: Matthew Kern shows us some of the beauty and diversity of wildflowers found in our region’s woods. Nature Change offers many more stories about the risks to these special habitats and how managers are working to preserve them. Please contact us if you would like to submit your own photo-essay or video for publication on Nature Change.]




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