Stems: weak, from a tuber. Leaves: few, opposite, oblong. Flowers: in a loose raceme on slender pedicels, nodding, white or pale pink; veins rose; calyx of two ovate sepals; petals five; style three-cleft at apex.
Close to the snow, in warm wet valleys, when the June sunshine has awakened the alpine world from its winter sleep, you will find the Spring Beauty, and as you stoop to gather it the whole plant (consisting of a tuberous root and one stalk with two leaves upon it and a cluster of blossoms at the top) will inevitably come up in your hand, so easily does it leave the ground. No sooner does this happen than the petals begin to close, the leaves to droop, and the stem to grow limp. Ten minutes afterwards the flower is hopelessly wilted. Whether white or delicate pink, the Spring Beauty is always veined with bright rose colour. There are few more exquisite wild blossoms on this continent than "These little dream-flowers found in Spring," of which Longfellow wrote in "Hiawatha": "Where the fire had smoked and smouldered, Saw the earliest flower of Spring-time, Saw the Beauty of the Spring-time, Saw the Miskodeed in blossom."
Miskodeed is the Indian name for the Spring Beauty.
Claytonia megarrhiza, or Alpine Spring Beauty, has numerous wedge-shaped basal leaves rounded at the apex and with a dilated base; the stems not exceeding these leaves in length. The stem leaves are narrow and the white to pinkish and yellowish flowers grow in a one-sided cluster, and have conspicuous bracts. This plant has a very large tap-root which penetrates to a great depth in the crevices among the rocks at high altitudes.
Claytonia parvifolia, or Small-leaved Spring Beauty, has tiny fleshy oval leaves, and white to pinkish loosely-flowered clusters of blossoms at the ends of the numerous stems. It propagates freely by bulblets in the axils of the stem leaves, as well as by seed.