Sunday, March 15, 2015

Erigenia bulbosa

Harbinger-of-Spring (Erigenia bulbosa)

     The aptly named Harbinger-of-spring (Erigenia bulbosa) is one of the earliest spring wildflowers to bloom in Illinois.  “Erigenia” is Greek and means “born in the spring” while “bulbosa” means “bearing bulbs,” in this case referring not to true bulbs but to the tubers of the plant.
     This plant is in the carrot family (Apiaceae), which is a family also called umbellifers because the flowers of species in this family are arranged in an umbel.  An umbel is a type of inflorescence that is either flat or convex in its overall shape and the stalks of the groups of flowers all arise from a common point.  The word “umbel” comes from Latin and means “shadow” and it is from this the word “umbrella” is also derived.
     Harbinger-of-spring is a spring ephemeral wildflower.  Spring ephemerals need lots of energy for growth and reproduction, yet they grow in rich woods underneath a mostly full canopy of mature trees.  In order to obtain the light needed for photosynthesis, these plants grow in the early spring, when unobstructed light reaches the forest floor and temperatures are above freezing.  This allows the spring ephemerals to emerge and produce flowers before the canopy trees grow their leaves and shade out the ground.

     This plant is also referred to as pepper-and-salt, referring to the speckled appearance of the purplish anthers and the white petals.  It is the only species in the genus Erigenia.

Harbinger-of-Spring (Erigenia bulbosa)

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