Wildflower Walks

Spring unfolds like a flower, glinting and lovely. For flower lovers, this is a time of year to celebrate. From the day the first crocus or daffodil appears, the best time of year begins. With such a range of blooms to see and smell – bulbs, annuals, perennials, and tree blossoms – you’ll find no shortage of glories as you go about your spring travels.

This year, why not try something new? If you know garden flowers like the palm of your hand, then this is a great time to learn about their wild cousins. A Wildflower Walk can be a fantastic way to relax in the woods, soaking up wisdom from your trail guide and picking up tips from your fellow hikers. Many national and state parks, as well as botanical gardens, offer flower-identifying walks, allowing you to experience the wild blooms of a new part of the country – or right in your own backyard!

Knowing the names of local buds and blooms can make you feel more involved in the locale you’re visiting – it’s like making a new friend in the area. Suddenly your scenic drives will turn into a chance to spot your new buddies, the Cone Flowers and the purple Lupine. You’ll come to associate different parts of the country with their flowers, from the Colorado Columbine to the California Poppy.

Campers from the east who visit the west will be tickled by the number of “false” plants they encounter that are similar to plants at home. Early pioneers, familiar with the blooms of the eastern seaboard, named flowers after what they remembered from their home states. As a result, you’ll find False Solomon’s Seal, Mock Orange, False Hellebore, False Indigo, and even False Dandelion, plus a number of other western originals that wound up being “falsely” named.

You can get to know the flowers that bloom in different ecosystems, from mountains or riversides to deserts or coastal terrain. See mountain flowers like Paintbrush, Tiger Lilies, Foxglove, and Lupine, then look for coastal blooms like the Douglas Iris, Tidy Tips, Beach Knotweed, and the Wood Rose. In the Midwest, you’ll find Black-Eyed Susans and Daisies flanking fields of cultivated Sunflowers. You can hunt for rare gems like Florida Orchids, forest Lady Slippers, or unusual desert flowers like delicate Prickly Pear Cactus, the showy pink Beavertail Cactus, or the fiery orange Desert Mariposa Lily.

During this month in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, you can find forest trillium flowers that bloom during Easter. Hunt through the woods of New England for the lilac-purple New England Aster, or scour the Southeast for the Showy Evening Primrose, Queen Anne’s Lace, Rose Mallow, or perfumed Sweet Alyssum. In Texas and throughout the Southwest, you can find wild Blue Sage, Texas Bluebonnets, Desert Marigolds, Orange Cosmos, Phlox, and Missouri Primrose.

When you take part in a Wildflower Walk, you’ll pick up interesting gems beyond the names of local flowers and ways to find them. Ask about edible plants that grow nearby – you might be amazed at what you learn about plants like Licorice Fern, Candy Flowers, Wild Fennel, and Dandelions. You can get the names of native trees or learn tips about which flowers require a marshy habitat and which ones like it dry and sunny.

With the incredible range of flowers blooming in this season, this is the perfect time to learn more about them while taking a Wildflower Walk with a park ranger or flower expert. Think of all the things you’ll learn! And no matter what, you’re sure to come away with a new fondness for the delicate little blooms of nature. As Hans Christian Anderson once said, “Just living is not enough… One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
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