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Claytonia virginica - Spring Beauty | by FritzFlohrReynolds
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Claytonia virginica - Spring Beauty

The USDA Plant Database assigns these to the Portulacaceae family, but the APG III classification system now places them in Montiaceae.


I found these on the second to last day of February, and I almost didn't post the photo, because they are "early", and there are more on the way, many of which might photograph better than this little one, but I have decided to document it's appearance for posterity's sake.


Claytonia virginica is a widespread spring ephemeral in this region, mostly found in decent quality deciduous woods.


A spring ephemeral is a flower that emerges before the trees leaf out, and takes advantage of the sunlight in what would otherwise often be an area of deep shade. By the time the canopy fills in, the spring ephemerals have finished flowering, and their exposed foliage quickly withers away. They disappear beneath the earth, leaving only a seed casing, if that, to mark their location. Assuming nothing disturbs the earth in which they sleep, they will return next year, like clockwork, in very early spring.


If the natural forest floor has been replaced with a "lawn" of non native grass turf, or scraped bare and mulched, or is covered with invasive species, including many exotic "decorative" ground cover plants, you probably wont find any. However, in deciduous woods in which humans have not either directly or indirectly eliminated them, these are a very common early spring wildflower, growing alongside, and forming a sort of backdrop in many places to, a wide variety of of other spring ephemerals with more specific niches. Claytonia virginica is also sometimes found in more disturbed areas, such as roadsides or lawns.


Although not widespread when compared to many late summer and fall native wildflowers such as some of the Symphyotrichum species, whose seeds spread readily in the wind, Claytonia virginica is definitely one of the most tolerant and adaptable of the early spring native wildflowers which can be called "spring ephemerals" many of whom, such as Erythronium americanum, don't spread as easily, and are mainly found in old growth areas where the original ground flora is intact, these colonies may be hundreds of years old, and are easily eliminated by habitat disruption.

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Taken on February 27, 2013