Erigenia bulbosa, also known as harbinger of spring or pepper and salt, is a perennial plant in the carrot family (Apiaceae). E. bulbosa is the only species in the genus Erigenia (Nutt.). This plant is known as harbinger of spring because it is one of the earliest blooming native wildflowers of rich forests in the mid-latitude United States. It is found as far north as central New York and southern Wisconsin, west to the western Ozarks, and south to central Alabama. It is also found in extreme southern Ontario.Throughout most of its range it blooms from late February through early April. It is a small spring ephemeral reaching only 5-15 cm tall when in flower, and slightly larger afterwards. Each spherical bulb gives rise to a single purplish stem, which terminates in an umbel. The flowers have white petals and large dark-reddish anthers. The teardrop shaped petals are 3-4 millimeters long, widely spaced and do not touch each other. As is characteristic of the carrot family, the leaves of this plant are sheathed at the base and pinnately divided into many small sections.
This plant is an occasional in rich hardwood forests of eastern North America. Its typical associates include spring beauty (Claytonia virginica), and cut-leaf tooth wort (Cardamine laciniata). All of these early spring blooming plants are pollinated by solitary bees, and to a lesser extent, flies and honey bees. E. bulbosa has a small daily accumulation of nectar per flower (7–38 µg sugar/flower), but the presence of numerous, closely arranged, simultaneously blooming flowers in the umbel may increase the overall nectar incentive for the pollinators. The nectar produced by E. bulbosa only contains the sugar fructose.
The bulb is edible both cooked and raw. The Cherokee were known to chew this plant as medicine for toothaches, it is unknown what parts of plant they chewed. This plant is sometimes used in native wildflower gardens throughout its range.
- USDA PLANTS Database: Erigenia bulbosa
- Dailey, T. B. & P. E. Scott 2006. Spring nectar sources for solitary bees and flies in a landscape of deciduous forest and agricultural fields: production, variability, and consumption. The Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 133:535–547
- Dailey, et al. 2003. Nectar rewards of co-flowering spring herbs in woodlands and adjacent agricultural fields. Abstracts: 87th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America.
- Brent G. DeMars. OHIO J. SCI. 96 (4/5): 97-99, 1996. https://kb.osu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1811/23719/V096N4-5_097.pdf;jsessionid=60FDF8EE2192E367749B66FB50208659?sequence=1.
- Plants for a Future Database: E. bulbosa.
- Dr. Moermann's Ethnobotanical database: E. bulbosa