Woodland Beauty


Sumner, United States

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Spring Beauty Wildflowers at Echo Valley State Park in northeast Iowa. USA

Spring Beauty
Claytonia virginica
Purslane family (Portulacaceae)

Description: This perennial wildflower is about 3-6" tall, consisting of a flowering stem with a pair of opposite cauline leaves and some basal leaves. The stem is light green or slightly reddish green, glabrous, and rather succulent. The basal leaves and the pair of cauline leaves are linear or linear-lanceolate, slightly recurved, glabrous, smooth along the margins, and slightly fleshy. There is a single central vein along the length of each leaf. The leaves are about 2-5" long; their width varies somewhat depending on the local ecotype, but it is usually about ¼" across. The stem terminates in a floppy raceme of flowers. Each flower is about 8 mm. (1/3") across when it is fully open, consisting of 5 petals, 2 green sepals, 5 stamens with pink anthers, and a pistil with a tripartite style. The petals are white with fine pink stripes; these stripes vary from pale pink to bright pink. The flowers open up on warm sunny days, and close during cloudy weather or at night. They are more or less erect while open, but nod downward while closed. The blooming period occurs from mid- to late spring and lasts about 1-2 months. There is a pleasant floral scent. Each fertile flower produces an ovoid capsule containing several seeds; this capsule is enclosed by the 2 persistant sepals. The root system consists of a small corm and secondary roots. This wildflower spreads by reseeding itself; sometimes it forms rather loose colonies of plants.

Cultivation: The preference is dappled sunlight during the spring, moist to slightly dry conditions, and a rich loamy soil with abundant organic matter. This wildflower will adapt to semi-shaded areas of lawns if mowing is delayed during the spring. Both the flowers and foliage fade away by mid-summer. The easy way to start plants is by obtaining their corms, although these are expensive to buy from nurseries.

Range & Habitat: Habitats include moist to dry deciduous woodlands, savannas, thinly wooded bluffs, city parks, old cemeteries, and lawns (particularly near trees). Less often, this species is found in mesic prairies, but it is primarily a woodland plant. Spring Beauty can survive more environmental degradation than most spring-blooming woodland species, including occasional grazing by cattle and partial clearing of trees. This is one reason why it is still common.

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