The spring beauty wildflower (Claytonia virginica) is one of the most common native perennials in eastern North America. Hike through one of Indiana's many nature preserves and parks and you're bound to find a great number of these small, delicate flowers.
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Spring beauties are small low-growing wildflowers that are found in a star-like cluster of five white to light pink flowers. Closer examination of the petals will reveal an array of fine pink stripes and a pleasant floral fragrance. The dark green, grass-like leaves are both narrow and linear, and are usually found in pairs. Foliage continues to grow after bloom and may eventually reach close to a foot tall before the leaves disappear in late spring as the plants go into dormancy.
One reason for why the spring beauty is so common is its ability to survive in areas that have suffered land degradation such as livestock grazing and partial tree removal. Many other native woodland wildflowers don’t fare as well under these conditions. The spring beauty however, can thrive in yards with just a few trees present and be quite prolific. When spring beauties and other wildflowers are absent from woodlands, this is a sure sign of severe degradation from plows or bulldozers in the past.
Beautiful and Tasty?
According to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, spring beauties are not only beautiful spring ephemeral, but a tasty spud-like vegetable. The tubers, or the fleshy underground stem or root that provides nutrition to the plant, are a half inch to two inches in diameter, and are often compared to radishes or small potatoes. They taste, however, much sweeter than the average spud - more like a chestnut than potato - and are rich in nutrients including potassium, calcium and vitamins A and C.
Spring beauty tubers are best harvested when the flower is in full bloom. Though you may be tempted to grab a few bunches on your next hike, wildflowers should be left in the wild to be enjoyed by all. Instead plant this wonderful native and edible plant in your own backyard. As a native perennial, spring beauties are quite easy to grow and maintain. Whether baked, roasted or eaten raw, spring beauties are a yummy and unique snack that looks just as good in your garden as they do on your plate.