Spring Beauty

Claytonia virginica. Being among the first flowers of the season has earned Spring Beauty the affection of many a spring trekker looking for signs of new life in the woods. Spring Beauty can colonize and carpet large areas of woodland, painting the brown leaves pink. The flower’s five petals glisten in the sunlight, bearing many tiny reflective beacons to catch the eye of the earliest bees and flies, which are guided to the nectar by the several pink lines radiating from the base of each petal. The plants are able to thwart thieves as well as to handle the harshness of frigid nights, fierce winds, and heavy rains common in early spring. Spring Beauty protects its nectar and pollen from crawling insects by using slender stems that many ants cannot easily negotiate. These stems are also quite flexible, able to bend without breaking in strong winds of March and early April. The flower closes when the sun is setting or when rain threatens, helping to conserve heat and prevent rain from diluting the nectar and washing away the pollen.  Spring Beauty can also position its slender, grass-like leaves to capture the sunlight arriving at the relatively low angle found in the early spring. Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) ranges from southern Canada into the mountains of the South and west to the Mississippi River region. Claytonia was named for John Clayton, who came to Virginia as a young man in the early 1700s. A Gloucester County government official for a half-century, Clayton was also a botanist. He spent much of his life collecting specimens, sending them to a Dutch botanist, Jan Frederik Gronovius, who named and categorized them in Flora Virginica, published in 1739 and 1743. The Spring Beauty’s corm is small, nutlike, and tasty; while it takes time and effort to gather enough to make servings worth eating, fans swear it’s worth the trouble. 

Click here to return to the previous page