Wildflowers Are In Bloom: Here's What To Look For On A Nature Walk

Apr 28, 2020

Spring wildflower season is in full blossom across the Tri-State region. Though many places are closed due to stay-at-home orders, most area parks and forests are open for hiking, walking and flower spotting.

WVXU's Tana Weingartner spoke with Stephanie Morris, a naturalist at Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve, part of Great Parks of Hamilton County. You can listen to their conversation and read excerpts below.

Great white trillium is the state wildflower of Ohio and in bloom now.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

What's In Bloom?

"We've got large flower bellwort up. The Virginia waterleaf are in bloom, toadshade, drooping and large flower trillium are all blooming. There is wild ginger and mayapple adjust starting to bloom if you peek under the leaves. Several of our trails are having dwarf larkspur blooming now as well."

What's Coming Soon?

"The wild ginger and mayapple, they're going to really come into their peak so if you look under their leaves, those are kind of hidden flowers. They're kind of fun to search for. The wild blue phlox and the wild geranium are just starting along with Solomon's seal and false Solomon's seal."

A patch of prairie trillium in bloom at Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve in Colerain Township.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Where To Look?

"You're going to want to go to a woodland with nice rich soil. If you can find a place with varied habitat - someplace that has maybe some wetter areas and some drier areas; some hillsides that face the sun while some face away - you'll be able to really see different plants and blooms all on your same trip. You also want to go out on a nice day. Some of these flowers are going to close up when it's overcast, so you're going to walk right by them without even seeing them."

A Jack-in-the-pulpit hides amongst mayapple. It's not that rare, but can be hard to spot.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

What Are Some Harder To Spot Flowers To Look For?

"Jack-in-the-pulpit is fairly common but it's hard to find because it's green and it's nondescript. It's actually blooming right now and it should be up for a couple more weeks. Another one of the harder-to-find wildflowers that we have in our parks is putty root. All that you're going to see (right now) is a single, deeply vein leaf poking out above the soil. Come May, you're going to see a spike of flowers. It's in the orchid family, so it's kind of reminiscent of an orchid but it's not as showy as something that you're going to find in the flower stores."

Dutchman's breeches resemble pants hung on the washing line.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Some Flowers Have Amusing Names...

"Some of the names are kind of fun. There's Dutchman's breeches, which gets its name because it looks like pants hanging on the drying line after being washed. Squirrel corn is another one of those early bloomers that's probably already passed but blooms along with Dutchman's breaches, often in the same places. ... It gets its name from the squirrels. They'll dig up the underground roots and feed on that as if it were corn. Another one of my favorites is blood root, and blood root gets its name because it's got this really dark rich red sap that runs through the root."

Wild blue phlox provides a pop of purple-blue hue to the woods.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Natural Areas and Preserves produces a weekly Wildflower Bloom Report. Be careful when visiting parks and woodlands and follow appropriate social distancing precautions.

Also, resist the urge to pick wildflowers. Not only is it not allowed, Director of Education & Events Amy Roell says wildflowers aren't built for bouquets. They will wilt quickly and won't be revived by a vase of water. "It really robs the plant of the food that the leaves (need)."