spring beauty (Claytonia virginica)
narrow-leaved spring beauty
SCIENTIFIC SYNONYMS: There are no scientific synonyms for
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of spring beauty
is Claytonia virginica L. Spring beauty is a unique member of the Purs-
lane Family that is easy to distinguish from other wildflowers. Look for
pink- stripes, whether pale or bright, on the petals of the flowers, and
only 2 sepals underneath. In southeastern United States, there is Clay-
tonia carolina (Carolina beauty), which has a similar appearance to
spring beauty (the leaves of this species are usually broader than those
of spring beauty), but it has not been observed in Facquier County. Claytonia carolina is listed within Family Montiaceae) in the Flora of Virginia.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This native perennial plant 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.
Leaves: The basal leaves and the pair of cauline leaves are linear or
linear-lanceolate, recurved, glabrous, smooth along the margins, and
rather fleshy. There is a single central vein along the length of each
leaf. The leaves are about 3-6" long; their width varies considerably
depending on the local ecotype, but it is usually about ¼" across.
Flowers: The stem terminates in a floppy raceme of flowers. Each
flower is up to ½" across when fully open, consisting of 5 petals, 2
green sepals, 5 stamens with pink anthers, and a pistil with a tri-
partite 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. There is a pleasant floral scent.
Fruit/Seeds: Each fertilized flower produces an ovoid capsule con-
taining several seeds; this capsule is enclosed by the 2 persistant
Roots: The root system consists of a small round corm and second-
ary roots. This plant spreads by reseeding itself, and can become
abundant in some areas.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Spring beauty propogates itself by
HABITAT TYPES: Habitats include moist to dry deciduous woodlands,
savannas, thinly wooded bluffs, city parks, old cemeteries, and lawns (par-
ticularly near trees). Less often, this species is found in mesic prairies, but
it is primarily a woodland plant. Spring Beauty can survive more environ-
mental degradation than most spring-blooming woodland species, includ-
ing occasional grazing by cattle and partial clearing of trees. This is one
reason why it is still common.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: The preference is dappled sunlight during
the spring, moist to slightly dry conditions, and a rich loamy soil with
abundant organic matter. This plant will adapt to semi-shaded areas of
lawns if mowing is delayed during the spring. The easy way to start plants
is by obtaining their corms, although these are difficult to find or expen-
sive to buy from nurseries. This attractive wildflower is a sure sign that
spring has arrived and that the local woodlands are full of wildflowers.
When spring beauty and these other wildflowers are conspicuously absent
from a woodlands, this indicates that it has been subjected to severe de-
gradation from plows or bulldozers at some point in the past.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from mid-
to late spring and lasts about a month.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Spring beauty is primarily a species of
the eastern United States. With the exception of Florida in the south, and
the New England states and maritime provinces of Canada, spring beauty
can be found as far west as the southern Great Plains. It is not naturally
found in the southwest, Rocky Mountain states, and the far west and
northwestern states. It is not found farther west than Ontario in Canada.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: Aside from insect pollination, little is
known about floral-faunal relationships. Various kinds of bees visit the
flowers, include honey bees, bumblebees, little carpenter bees, mason
bees, Nomadine cuckoo bees, miner bees, Halictid bees (including green
metallic bees), and Andrenid bees. Many flies also visit the flowers,
including Syrphid flies, the giant bee fly (Bombylius major), carrion flies,
Muscid flies, and Anthomyiid flies. Less often, various butterflies and
skippers visit the flowers. These insects usually seek nectar; some of the
bees also collect pollen. It is possible that the corms, which are edible, are
eaten occasionally by voles and other small rodents. They can be eaten by
humans as well, but their small size makes this impractical.
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