Plants & Gardens Blog

Spring Beauty in the Native Flora Garden

Few flowers epitomize the grace of spring ephemerals like Claytonia virginica, commonly called spring beauty, fairy spud, good-morning-spring, musquash, wild-potato, or miskodeed. Spreading like a carpet over the forest floor, the candy-striped flowers are among the earliest to open after the snow has melted and spring warmth has arrived. The flowers and rangy foliage emerge from a small marble-size corm. They can be easily transplanted and moved after flowering has finished. Be sure to remember where they are—once they go dormant, the small corms are nearly impossible to find. The corms are edible and “when boiled in salt water, are palatable and nutritious, having the flavor of chestnuts,” reported the Harvard botanist Merrit Fernald in 1943. The Native American name miskodeed is used in The Song of Hiawatha, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. From chapter XXI, The White Man’s Foot:

And Segwun, the youthful stranger,
More distinctly in the daylight
Saw the icy face before him;
It was Peboan, the Winter!
From his eyes the tears were flowing;
As from melting lakes the streamlets
And his body shrunk and dwindled
As the shouting sun ascended,
Till into the air it faded,
Till into the ground it vanished,
And the young man saw before him,
On the hearth stone of the wigwam,
Where the fire had smoked and smouldered,
Saw the earliest flower of the Spring-time,
Saw the Beauty of the Spring-time,
Saw the Miskodeed in blossom.

Uli Lorimer is director of Horticulture at Garden In The Woods, in Framingham, Massachussettes. Previously, he was curator of BBG's Native Flora Garden.


  • Dan June 14, 2011

    I just dug up some corms from flowering Spring Beauties in Utah and want to transplant.  AFter I found them, I came across this article and am wondering why you have to wait to dig them up after flowering?  Will they still live?

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