Spring Beauty is the common (and quite appropriate) name for a tiny little flower known scientifically as Claytonia caroliniana, and/or Claytonia virginica. I have also seen it called Broad-leaf Spring Beauty: Claytonia (Montia) cordifolia and Lance-leaf Spring Beauty: Claytonia lanceolata but am not sure if these names correlate. It grows abundantly at the Patuxent Wildlife Center in Laurel, MD. The leaves here are narrow and lance like. Photos on the WWW distinctly show 2 distinct leaf types, one skinny, and one fat. Either way, the things the 2 varieties have in common are the bloom time, the type of flower, their size and their nature as a spring ephemeral.

Spring Beauty is the hallmark of spring in the Mid Atlantic deciduous woods. Looking just at native wildflowers, except for a very few (Skunk Cabbage, Dandelion, Chickweed, Dead Nettle, Whitlow Grass, Bittercress, Gill-over-the-ground, Hepatica and Coltsfoot) nothing blooms earlier here in Howard County, MD than Spring Beauty. 1 None of these other plants come close to Spring Beauty as far as pure loveliness goes, although they are all interesting in their own way.

All types of Spring Beauty produce a tiny bright white flower finely drawn with raspberry pink stripes. It has 5 petals and new blooms continue to open further up the stalk for a period of 8 to 10 weeks. The individual blooms are short lived and will refold tightly like a bud when the air is cold. There are only 2 leaves formed on each stalk and they are a dark green, sometimes with a bit of a maroon tone. Multiple stalks can occur in a cluster. The leaves are thick and leathery. The whole plant is 3 to 12 inches tall (lengthening as the blooming stalk continues to expand).

LORE:

I couldn’t say it better. “Spring beauties open like delicate white bowls atop 6-inch stems. They are the kind of flower a little girl would pick so that she could fantasize for hours about angels or fairies hand-painting each petal with fine purple lines, making each one more joyous than anything ever crafted by human hands.” 4

They are also called Fairy Spuds or wild potatoes. The tuber or corm is said to have the raw flavor of radishes and the cooked flavor of a baked potato and roasted chestnuts. The leaves can be eaten raw when young or cooked as a “potherb” when older. 5



SOURCES:
1 http://www.geocities.com/howardbirds/hocoflow.html
2 http://www.williams.edu/go/oitmellon/mellon2000/Tasse/project/images/thesis_aya_thesis.pdf
3 http://www.ohio.com/bj/features/2001/April/21/docs/000508.htm
4 http://www.rollanet.org/~grette/nc010.html
5 http://www.clintoncountyiowa.com/conservation/spring2000/springbeauty.htm (includes an adapted Ojibwa legend by H. R. Schoolcraft concerning Peboan, the Spirit of Winter and Seegwun, the Spirit of Spring and the arising of the “modest spring beauty

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