Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Harbinger-of-spring - Erigenia bulbosa   (Michaux) Nuttall
Members of Apiaceae:
Only member of Erigenia in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Apiales » Family Apiaceae
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Author(Michaux) Nuttall
DistributionThis is a fairly recent addition to the NC flora, with collections from Graham County (2011) in the Mountains and Caswell County (1991) in the northern Piedmont; and a second record from Graham County in 2013. There is also a confirmed March 2021 set of photos from Swain County, posted on iNaturalist. Lastly, in early 2024 the website editors learned of a specimen reportedly collected in the early 1970's from a rich hardwood forest on the north side of the Cape Fear River near the Buckhorn Dam, in Chatham County (fide D. Schiller); he has confirmed the collection (lying in the herbarium of Duke Energy), which was made by a botanist with an environmental consulting firm. However, the consulting firm was based in Indiana, and Schiller wonders if the specimen might have been collected there, in another survey in that region. His attempts to contact the collector to confirm this out-of-range record have been unsuccessful; thus, the editors are not including Chatham County on the map.

This is a Midwestern and Ohio Valley species, ranging east to western NY and northern GA, and west to southeastern KS. There are a few additional Piedmont records from MD and central VA.
AbundanceVery rare in Graham and Swain counties, and extremely rare (if still present) in the far northern and eastern Piedmont. The Chatham site (if there was one) was checked by Schiller over several springs but the plants could not be relocated. This is a State Threatened species.
HabitatThis is a species limited to high pH soils over mafic rocks or very rich alluvium. It grows in Rich Cove Forests and Basic Mesic Forests, and perhaps adjacent floodplain forests, in NC.
PhenologyBlooms very early, from February to May, and fruits shortly after flowering. This is a classic spring ephemeral species, seldom seen above ground after late April or early May.
IdentificationThis is a quite familiar species in the Midwestern states, but sadly it is poorly known in the Atlantic states. This is a tiny species, rarely reaching 5-6 inches tall after flowering (but often just 2-3 inches high when flowering), usually with 1-2 leaves that are divided into pinnate sections, each section barely 1/4-inch long and with rounded and narrow "fingers". A few very small, white-flowered umbels are present at the end of the stem, each one barely 1/3-1/2-inch across. However, the purple color of the anthers is quite striking against the white petals. To find this gem of a species in NC, you must work rich forests in early spring and carefully look at tiny fern-like plants barely 2-3 inches tall!
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Pepper-and-salt
State RankS1
Global RankG5
State StatusT
US Status
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B.A. SorrieCloudland Canyon, northwestern GA, April 2015. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC
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