This low growing perennial is a classic example of a spring ephemeral as it emerges in late winter, grows vegetatively, flowers, and produces seeds all within just a few weeks. The remaining weeks (about 48) each year it persists underground as a dormant plant.
By emerging in late winter, spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) is able to take advantage of the high light levels reaching the forest floor. Once the trees leaf out the forest becomes shaded, after which its ability to photosynthesize and grow is diminished, causing spring beauty to go dormant.
Other spring ephemerals include trout lily (Erythronium species) and Dutchman's britches (Dicentra cucullaria).
The conspicuous pink veins on spring beauty's flowers guide small bees and flies to the nectar at the base of each petal, increasing the likelihood of successful pollination.
Enjoy this plant when you come upon it because next time you visit it's likely to be gone, at least until next year.