As the days get longer and the ground and air warm up, our native plants begin to unfold. These first woodland flowers of spring are called “spring ephemerals,” and the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes is awash in them. In the early spring, our native trees have not leafed out, so ample sunlight reaches the forest floor. Spring ephemerals take full advantage of that sunlight to grow, flower, produce seeds, and go dormant all in the few short weeks before the trees shade them out.
A walk through the Nature Center’s Woodland Garden will reveal white trillium, Virginia bluebells, and Mayapples. Throughout our upland forest you may find a blanket of yellow trout lily. Blooming times vary each spring dependent on weather patterns, so watch for the first buds of spring and head out to the trails at the Nature Center before the tree leaves have unfolded.
Spring ephemerals are important food sources for our early pollinator species. Native bee species that nest in the ground and in logs emerge as soon as the air warms up and begin looking for food sources. If you look closely at the spring flowers, you will notice that the non-native honeybee is not the critter on these flowers, but rather are tiny little bees and flies that will not sting you (unless you grab and squeeze them). The timing of flower and bee emergence is crucial to the survival of both the plants and bees.
Our native bee population is in decline for a variety of reasons, including habitat loss and reduction of food sources. One threat to a thriving spring ephemeral community and its cascading effect on native bees is the invasive tree Norway maple. These trees are commonly planted on the street and have spread into the forest. Their leaves emerge early and shade out the ephemerals.
Planting spring ephemerals in your home garden can help the native bees and ensure the ecological health of our vibrant community. Check out the Nature Center at Shaker Lake’s Annual Plant Sale on Sunday, May 13th from 9:30 am – 1:30 pm for a wide selection of native spring and summer wildflowers to enhance your garden. Or order on our website (www.shakerlakes.org) beginning March 20th. Happy planting!
Sarah Cech, Natural Resources Manager, Nature Center at Shaker Lakes
About the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes
The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes was founded in 1966 as the result of a grassroots community effort to preserve the Shaker Parklands from becoming the route for a freeway connecting Cleveland's East Side to downtown. Today, with its dual purpose of conservation and education, the Nature Center is a model urban environmental resource that welcomes all and enriches people's lives through education, innovative programs, and community involvement in order to serve the diverse communities that surround its 20-acres of outdoor classroom space.
About the Series
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