April in Iowa is a great time to see a show in the woodlands–the spring ephemeral wildflowers are in bloom. There is a steady progression of blooming, often lasting only a couple of weeks for each species of flower.
There is another show of ephemeral beauty, only it is more subtle. The liverwort Conocephalum conicum is usually a flat, leafy plant only found on surfaces which are constantly wet. It often grows on the edges of streams or on the wet rocks that surround the streams.
Here is what it looks like most of the time:
In early to mid April it sends up little stalks which look like tiny mushrooms. These are reproductive structures of the liverworts–the spore producing portion of a life cycle that alternates between sexual and asexual stages. These little stalks last only a few days, then they are gone.
Watch for them. They don’t last long.