The Spring Ephemerals in Nova Scotia

Notes & References


1. Burton et al. (2009) & Givnish (1987). In ecology, "guild" refers to a group of species which use a set of resurces in a similar way. Givnish (1987) defined seven principal temporal photosynthetic guilds, based on seasonal pattern of leaf deployment in Virginia Piedmont forest:
  • winter annuals - such as Veronica hederaefolia - that germinate in late fall and persist almost to canopy closure
  • spring ephemerals - such as Dentaria laciniata - that leaf out in early spring and senesce before canopy closure
  • early summer species - such as Arisaemia triphyllum - that emerge in spring and persist through canopy closure for varying lengths of time but reach peak coverage before midsummer
  • late summer species - such as Laportea canadensis - that emerge in mid to late spring and reach peak coverage after midsummer
  • wintergreen species - such as Tipularia discolor - that emerge in early to mid autumn and persist through winter, senescing before canopy closure
  • evergreen species - such as Hepatica acutiloba - that maintain active leaves throughout the year
  • dimorphic species - such as Dentaria heterophylla - that hold two different sets of leaves or leaf positions at two different seasons.
2. Native Spring Ephemerals by Mariellé Anzelone 2011 Page on website for Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. (Accessed 4 April 2012)

3. Burton et al. (2009), Rogers (1983).

4. Flora of Nova Scotia (Roland et al., 1998).

5. As cited under NatureServe Explorer.
The conservation status of a species or ecosystem is designated by a number from 1 to 5, preceded by a letter reflecting the appropriate geographic scale of the assessment (G = Global), N = National, and S = Subnational). The numbers have the following meaning:
1 = critically imperiled, 2 = imperiled, 3 = vulnerable, 4 = apparently secure, 5 = secure, 1 = critically imperiled, 2 = imperiled, 3 = vulnerable, 4 = apparently secure , 5 = secure.
(Source: Interpreting NatureServe Conservation Status Ranks; Accessed 4 April 2012))

6. Please send comments and photos or links to photo galleries of spring ephmerals in Nova Scotia to, For each photo or set of photos published on, we need a locale and a date. We can cite your name or a pen name as the author (photographer). Contributors agree to Creative Commons license for use of photographs.

7. Sources: Anzelone (2011), Gillam (2007), Gillam & Roberts (2007), Givnish (1987), LaPointe (2001.)

8. Keddy, 1978.

9. Givnish 1987.

10. Myers and Anderson, 2003.

11. Garlic mustard. Page on the website of U.S. National Park Service. (Accessed 4 April 2012)

12. Clean Annapolis River Project (CARP): Invasive Alien Plants in the Annapolis Valley. (Accessed 4 April 2012)
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is an invasive alien herb, known to succeed in woodland sites at the expense of native flora (including woody species). It's invasive potential is high, and it may pose a threat to the integrity of Nova Scotia's unique Acadian Forest Ecosystem type.

The only documented population of garlic mustard in Nova Scotia occurs in Grand Pré. Plants have established themselves on federal, provincial, and private property. The origin of the population is unknown but botanists have been recording the spread. Despite the potential threat posed to Acadian Forests, no management action had been taken to prevent further spread.
13. See Problem Weed of the Month: Garlic Mustard (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, accessed 8 Apr. 2012): "By late June, most of the leaves have faded away and garlic mustard plants can be recognized only by the dead stalks with pale brown seedpods that may remain and hold viable seed through the summer."

14. CARP Factsheet INVASIVE ALIEN PLANT: The Showy Shrubs. (Accessed 13 April, 2012)


Burton, J.I., Zenner, E.K., Frelich, L.E., & Cornett. M.W. 2009. Patterns of plant community structure within and among primary and second-growth northern hardwood forest stands. Forest Ecology and Management 258: 2556-2568.

Gillam, F.S. 2007. The ecological significance of the herbaceous layer in temperate forest ecosystems. BioScience 57: 845-858

Gilliam, F.S & Roberts, M.R. 2003. The Herbaceous Layer in Forests of Eastern North America.New York: Oxford University Press.

Givnish, T.J., 1987. Comparative studies of leaf form ­ assessing the relative roles of selective pressures and phylogenetic constraints. New Phytologist 106, 131­160.

Keddy, P. 1978. Endangered Wild Plants of N.S. NSDNR Conservation Series. Available at See Keddy's map (deleted in the web posting of the article) at

Lapointe, L. 2001. How phenology influences physiology in deciduous forest spring ephemerals. Physiologia Plantarum 113: 151-157.

Myers, C.V, & Anderson, R.C. 2002. Seasonal Variation in Photosynthetic Rates Influences Success of an Invasive Plant, Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata). American Midland Naturalist 150: 231-245.

Rogers, R.S. 1983. Early spring herb communities in mesophytic forests of the great lakes region. Ecology 63: 1050-1063

Roland, A.E., Zinck, M. & Owen, E. (1998). Roland's flora of Nova Scotia, 3rd Ed. Halifax: Nimbus & Nova Scotia Museum.

Posted 4 Apr. 2012. Modified 13 Apr. 2012

The True Spring Ephemerals in N.S. |