If you’re searching for the first signs of spring, look for ephemerals.
These small, colorful flowers are generally the first blossoms to emerge from the soil in the spring. And this year, the St. Charles Park District is encouraging all residents to help identify spring ephemerals from March 1-April 30.
No experience is necessary; only the willingness to explore nature, snap a photo and upload your observations for the project in the iNaturalist app at “St. Charles, IL: Spring 2021 Ephemerals.” The app will provide useful information to park district staff including flower identification.
“Residents can be the useful eyes on the ground, observing a species of flower we didn’t know existed in that location,” said Chris Gingrich, assistant superintendent of outdoor education. “They can help us catalogue what’s growing, when it’s growing and where it’s growing.”
Ephemerals grow in woodland areas and true to its name, only can be seen for a short period of time.
Gingrich said even though these plants look delicate, they are incredibly resilient as their life cycle suggests. Ephemerals take advantage of the moist conditions of the soil in early spring by sprouting, flowering and producing seeds from the direct sunlight before being shaded by the larger plants and trees leafing out around them.
To get started with the spring ephemerals iNaturalist project, residents are encouraged to take a walk through Delnor Woods Park, as the park district has identification signage in front of flowering ephemerals along the paved path.
While there are several varieties at Delnor Woods such as trout lily, Dutchman’s breeches and jack-in-the-pulpit, Gingrich also suggests exploring Permission Woods and Hickory Knolls Natural Area for Mayapple and skunk cabbage, respectively, among other ephemerals. The project includes the boundaries of St. Charles Township, including parks and forest preserves outside of the St. Charles Park District.
“This project is a neat way for residents to get out and explore nature, but also to be better observers in nature,” Gingrich said. “I hope it helps average citizens learn about and pay more attention to what they are walking or hiking past.”
Gingrich noted the spring ephemeral project is a warm-up to the City Nature Challenge, which is a worldwide, week-long competition to observe the wildlife and plants in a particular city or boundary. Taking place from April 30-May 3, residents can use the iNaturalist app to snap photos and help identify wildlife, plants, animals and other species in nature.
“We encourage all residents to start using the app to help collect what’s out there,” said Gingrich. “Simply uploading photos can bring to our attention certain species we didn’t know existed in a particular location, or ones that we haven’t seen for a while or are considered endangered. Every photo can make a difference,” he added.
For more information about the Spring Ephemerals iNaturalist project, call Hickory Knolls at 630-513-4399.