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May 4th 2023

Fleeting Flowers

Spring is here, and we’d like to celebrate by sharing some springtime flowers with you. These ephemeral plants pop up soon after the snow melts, vanishing once the trees have leafed out. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to spot some on your next hike!

Eastern red columbine

The eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is a delicate plant with bright red flowers. This plant prefers rocky soil and is even able to grow in crevasses of boulders like you can see here. This flower is a favourite of hummingbirds, who use their long beaks to reach the nectar it contains.

Broadleaf springbeauty

The broadleaf springbeauty (Claytonia caroliniana) is a small flower that only measures a few centimetres. Seeing this delicate plant cover the ground with small star-shaped white and pink flowers certainly explains its name.


Last but not least, is the squirrel-corn (Dicentra canadensis). This plant produces delicate heart-shaped white flowers reminiscent of its commonly cultivated cousin, the bleeding heart.

Yellow trout-lily

Spring in a maple forest like the Gault Nature Reserve rhymes with the arrival of the yellow trout-lily (Erythronium americanum). This ephemeral spring flower grows shortly after snow melts and disappears once the leaves in the trees cast their shadow on it. Its name is a nod to its spotted leaves, reminiscent of the skin of some trout species.

Yellow marsh marigold

If you notice a patch of yellow flowers near a stream or a wetland, you are most likely looking at yellow marsh marigold (Caltha palustris). This plant loves moisture and grows in damp soil or shallow standing water.

White trillium

White trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) a spring flower that is an emblem of maple forests. It is easy to recognize with its three symmetrical leaves and its large white petals. Did you know this plant can take up to 17 years to produce its first flower?

At Gault Nature Reserve, white trillium is the focus of a long-term research project on the impacts of white-tailed deer overabundance.

Small white violet

The final flower on this list is the small white violet (Viola macloskeyi). This tiny flower grows near streams and rivers.

Did you get to see any of these flowers this spring? Share your photos with us on social media.

Frédérique Truchon
Communications Associate
Gault Nature Reserve of McGill University

Header: Yellow trout-lily (Erythronium americanum)(photo: Alex Tran)

Read also


May 18, 2021. Forest ecology is a complicated web of interactions and over browsing by deer can disrupt the strands of the web and the balance of these interactions.

Deer Exclosures

May 3, 2022. 16 years of monitoring white trillium at the Gault Nature Reserve.



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