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Spring ephemeral   [ Botany ]
Synonym: Vernal plants

Dictionary of botanic terminology - index of names

  Spring ephemerals  (Summer dormants) are plants that grow and bloom soon in spring and finish their growing-cycle by early summer.  
Usually the term spring ephemeral or vernal plant  refers to a plant with a short photosynthetic period that inhabits temperate deciduous forests. A spring ephemeral is one of the first plant to appear after snow melt and its aboveground growth phase lasts only about a few weeks. When the leaves develop, storage compounds are synthesized before the forest canopy has closed. The reserve compounds are then stored in the bulb or in other underground storage organs.
Late spring leaf senescence has often been attributed to the drastic reduction in light once the overstorey canopy has closed. But as leaf senescence occurs at about the same time in open and understorey habitats, higher temperatures in late spring might be the factor inducing leaf senescence in spring ephemerals.

Pediocactus despainii
This spring ephemeral complete its very short spring flowering  phase in only 3/4 weeks, then enter a long summer dormancy.

Some cactus and succulents coming from temperate zone (E.g. Pediocactus despainii) are spring ephemeral too, but not of the type that is usually cited. They began to flower and grow early in spring after snow melting, and their short growing season was completely done in a very few weeks. It grows on severely dry sites where there is little competition, but it must complete its growth with the spring moisture, before the hottest and drier weather begins, then plants dehydrates and retract at the soil level.
We usually use the term spring ephemeral to refer to forest plants that must complete most of their resource capture before the tree canopy leafs out. The big issue in that case is availability of light, rather than availability of water







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