OHIO VALLEY — As anxious gardeners look for signs of life in their flower beds, Mother Nature has created a display of her own. There is a surprise in store for us, buried beneath the fallen leaves and pine needles on the woodland floor.
One by one, wildflowers push their way to the surface and paint the landscape with an array of color and variety. They begin to bloom in early spring, raising their heads to the warm sun after remaining dormant throughout the winter, and just as suddenly as they appeared, they vanish until the next spring.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the season for spring wildflowers in Ohio’s southern counties is usually mid-March season to the end of May, although those dates may vary slightly depending on temperatures. The West Virginia Department of Tourism suggests wildflower enthusiasts visit places like Canaan Valley Resort State Park, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Kanawha State Forest, Audra State Park, WVU Core Arboretum, Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, Grandview with its overlook of the New River’s horseshoe bend and more.
Don’t expect Mother Nature to make it easy for you to spot them, as they are not planted in meticulously groomed beds or tagged with their botanical names. Instead, their caretaker is the Earth. They spring up wherever their seeds fall, under trees or along streams, in the middle of an open field, along the roadside, seeming to land naturally where they can thrive.
Many are low to the ground, frequently hiding in shade or taller grasses. They are often not as showy as many of the hybrid varieties we include in our own gardens, displaying soft muted tones that blend with their surroundings. Others will surprise you with bright yellows, purples and blues.
While we may see only the beauty of wildflowers, they have an important relationship with animals and insects. Their co-existence is mutually beneficial, and examples abound: Pollinating insects such as bees depend on flowers to provide nectar and pollen, and flowers depend on the insects for their own pollination. Wildflowers provide songbirds and other small animals with nesting materials, shelter, and a food source that includes seeds, insects, and berries, and in return help disperse their seeds.
If you decide to go looking for wildflowers, remember to wear your galoshes. Walking in Nature’s Garden can be muddy, but seeing the flowers close up is worth it. You may wish to take some photos to capture their fleeting beauty as a reminder that during the long days of winter, when they are asleep beneath the snow, they will return to herald the spring.
To find these beautiful specimens requires a willingness to slow down and look around at nature. As the saying goes, “On your journey, don’t forget to smell the flowers.”
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Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.