Park update: The Spur & Coach Passage sections of the High Line at 30th St. & 10th Ave. will be closed through December 11. The rest of the park will remain open.

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Photo by Melissa Mansur

Celebrating Spring Ephemerals

May 7, 2018

For the 2018 season, the High Line is celebrating the floral character of spring. Below, we’ll share insights into the curious characteristics of spring ephemerals. We also invite you to truly discover the flowers of spring through tours and activities.

Spring ephemerals are plants that emerge, bloom, produce seed, and disappear all within a matter of weeks. These plants employ fascinating survival strategies to get a jump start on other species or to overcome harsh conditions. While many New Yorkers associate spring with bold displays of tulips and daffodils, our local woodlands offer equally stunning displays of wildflowers. Each week of spring brings a new bloom for those who know where to look. Officially, spring stretches deep into June, but perhaps it is the ephemerals that make this season feel so fleeting.

How Tulips and Daffodils Survive
The sweet faces of spring favorites like tulips (Tulipa sp.) and daffodils (Narcissus sp.) belie their tough natures. These plants originally evolved in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Central Asia, where they faced harsh, dry climates. That’s why they developed bulbs, underground storage structures that enable them to survive drought, extreme temperatures, and high winds. Because the plant spends most of the year dormant underground, they’re also called geophytes, from the Greek for “earth” and “plant.”

Mount Everest alliums. Melissa Mansur

Local Gems
Our native spring ephemerals evolved in very different conditions from tulips and daffodils. Growing in moist woodlands, these plants aren’t trying to beat summer heat and drought, but rather racing to catch the sunlight before the trees leaf out. By the time the canopy shades the forest floor, the ephemerals have already generated enough energy to flower. The pollen and nectar they produce benefit wild bees early in the season. Once pollinated, the plants set seed. Several of the species found on the High Line attach fatty appendages, called “elaiosomes” to their seeds. Ants, seeking out this nourishing fat, disperse the seeds when they carry them back to their nests.

Every Bulb is Like a Battery
Tulip and daffodil bulbs are made of layers of modified leaves (just like onions). These bulbs store energy: The plant’s aboveground leaves produce sugars through photosynthesis, which are quickly saved up in the bulb so that the plant can go dormant before heat and drought set in.

Learn more about the cultural significance, survival strategies, and ecology of spring plants. Guided by a High Line gardener, you’ll visit spring favorites and native species, from candy-striped tulips to pearly-petaled native twinleafs.

Chelsea Thicket, Lawn, and Meadow Walk with with High Line Gardeners Maryanne Stubbs and Ayinde Listhrop
Thursday, May 10, 9am
In addition to colorful flowering trees and shrubs, the Chelsea Thicket features a spring understory full of native and introduced ephemerals such as spring beauty, Pagoda yellow dogtooth violet, and spring vetch. In the Meadow Walk, late tulips abound.

Free – RSVP Now

Philip A. and Lisa Maria Flyover and Wildflower Field with High Line Gardeners Orrin Sheehan and Taryn Cunha
Thursday, May 17, 9am
The Falcone Flyover offers a rich display of woodland ephemerals, including bloodroot and trillium, as well as other forest favorites such as native azaleas and ferns. Further north in the Wildflower Field, red and yellow species tulips and grape hyacinths will be in bloom.

Free – RSVP Now

FEED: A Garden Soundscape
Listen to the Soundscape
Experience the High Line gardens in a way you never have before. Brooklyn-based poet Tommy Pico, originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation, walks you through the park, sharing whispered stories, memories, and secrets of what the gardens’ microclimates evoke for him. Heartache and song, sparklers on July 4th, and mom’s wisdom all intertwine in a tale of love and reconciliation, and people and nature.

FEED is a narrative soundscape that can be experienced as you walk from the Donald Pels and Wendy Keys Gansevoort Woodlands to the Rail Yards, sitting at your favorite spot on the park, or even off the High Line.

TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

High Line Gardens are supported by Greenacre Foundation.

High Line Programs are supported, in part, with public funds from the New York City Council, under the leadership of Corey Johnson.