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Geophytes

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In the spring, the forests come alive with plants called geophytes.  The term geophyte means Earth plant. Geophytes spend the winter a few centimeters below the surface of the ground as a root, rhizome, bulb or corm.  False Solomon's seal, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Canada Mayflower, Trillium, Spring Beauty, Trout Lily, most orchids in temperate America, and Clintonia are examples of geophytes.  These plants are also called spring ephemeral plants.

Geophytes have to go through their growth cycle very quickly. In the spring, before the tree canopy emerges, the geophytes have to capture the light to grow and store energy for the following year. To help offset the short growing period, late in their growing cycle, geophytes produce a sheath-like modified leaf that forms a protective envelop around the stem and flower destined to emerge the following spring. Following the winter, this sheath emerges with its tiny enclosed developing plant.  This approach allows for the development of the plant below the surface of the ground, safe from hard frosts and snow of the winter and very early spring. During spring emergence, when the sheath feels the Sunlight, the sheath opens and the contained stem extends. For Trout lilies, it is the leaves that form the sheath – the larger first leaf forms the point and the smaller second leaf envelopes the first larger leaf. Together they protect the developing flower.  Geophyte flowers are important and early source of nectar for insects in the spring.

An interesting aspect of seed dispersion is that many geophytes depend on ants to disperse their seed - a relationship names "myrmecochorous" dispersion.

Following their flowering and growth period, geophytes die back, leaving little evidence of their presence.

Other sources of information:

What is a geophyte? (Cornell University)

Geophyte (Cactus Art Nursery)

Types of Geophytes (Cornell University)

Habitat:

In this area, most geophytes grow in the deciduous or mixed forests.

Click here for more habitat information:

 

List of Some Geophytes Present in the Sudbury Area:

 

 

For more information email: andy@ontariowildflower.com
Page last updated on: January 16, 2011
Website created by Andy Fyon
URL: http://www.ontariowildflower.com/goldenrods.htm
© 2009-2011 Andy Fyon

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