Wildflowers spring forth
One of these days, when the bursts of snow end, green shoots will begin to peak out of the forest floor to bring another generation of nature’s colorful spring wildflowers. Already, visitors to area woods likely can see skunk cabbage plants.
Skunk cabbage, which get its name because, yes, it smells like a skunk, is the first to bloom and often emerges as early as February.
Its brownish-red horn-shaped flower is most easily seen while snow still is on the ground, but it can be found in wet areas throughout the spring season.
Skunk cabbage is known for its ability to produce heat that allows it to emerge and bloom even when the ground still is frozen. During the winter, flower buds can warm to 70 degrees, which melts the snow around the plant.
Pollinated flower heads develop berry-like fruits containing seeds which germinate into new skunk cabbages next growing season. Skunk cabbage leaves don’t last long because they have a high water content.
The plant’s unpleasant odor is a way to attract pollinators that are attracted to rotting meat.
Skunk cabbage is the first of what the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is expecting to be a colorful spring wildflower season through May.
After the last snows melt, other early wildflowers to make their appearance are snow trillium, harbinger-of-spring, hepatica and bloodroot.
After the earliest flowers, the next group are Dutchman’s breeches and large-flowered trillium, followed by wild geranium, mayapple and Virginia waterleaf. The season closes with the blooming of the spectacular Lakeside daisy, a federally threatened species that grows in abandoned limestone quarries near Marblehead and on Kelleys Island.
Sometimes known as spring ephemerals, ODNR says the most spectacular wildflower seasons are brought on by a gradual warmup through March and April with frequent rain.
Timing is dependent on temperature, and there’s often a two- or three-week difference between flowering times from areas along the Ohio River to here in the north.
Flowers take advantage of the sunlight that reaches the ground in wooded areas before the heavy, leaf canopy darkens it as the warm season continues.
Mesic woods, those that have rich, organic soil and moist conditions, feature the largest array of wildflowers. While most woods in Ohio have at least some native spring wildflowers, ODNR says the best ones are found in relatively undisturbed locations, away from urban areas.
Ohio’s spring wildflowers attract early pollinators in the form of native bees and flies. Lured by bright colors and fragrances, honeybees, solitary bees, bumblebees and syrphid flies visit flowers in search of nectar and pollen. Spring wildflowers populations provide food for pollinators, and in turn, large numbers of pollinators provide more food for migratory birds that arrive later in the spring when the birds are in need of quick energy after their long journeys.
Where to go and when
One of the best spots in Ohio to see spring wildflowers is in Seneca County at Howard Collier State Nature Preserve (naturepreserves.
The 115-acre natural area along the Sandusky River features a 1.5-mile trail through a wooded area in the river’s floodplain that sprouts flower such as sharp-lobed hepatica, Dutchman’s breeches, squirrel-corn, three trillium species, twinleaf, white and yellow trout-lily and marsh marigold.
The Seneca County Park District has a wildflower hike planned at Collier preserve at 5 p.m. April 29.
The preserve is at 1655 W. TR 38, Tiffin, about 3 miles northeast of McCutchenville.
Also nearby in Crawford County is Sears Woods State Nature Preserve (naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/
searswoods), a 99-acre area adjacent to the Sandusky River southwest of Bucyrus and managed by Crawford Park District.
ODNR recommends May as the best time to see flowers at Sears Woods.
To the north, Augusta-Anne Olsen State Nature Preserve (naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/
augustaanneolsen), formerly named Vermilion River Preserve, is a 132-acre preserve in Huron County near Wakeman.
The half-mile Spring Trail offers a variety of spring wildflowers in April and May including twinleaf, bluebells, sessile trillium, large-flowered trillium, drooping trillium, ginger, bloodroot, marsh marigold, hepatica, wild hyacinth, golden saxifrage, dwarf ginseng and showy orchis.
The River Loop Trail and the River Trail also offer wildflower viewing, as well as American chestnut trees.
Another good spot to see wildflowers not too far away is Fowler Woods, a 187-acre state nature preserve in Richland County, 13 miles north of Mansfield (naturepreserves.
Most notable are marsh marigolds in April, and in May the ground is covered with trilliums, violets, Dutchman’s breeches, jack-in-the-pulpit, spring beauty and phlox.
ODNR notes spring and fall are the best times to visit Fowler Woods to avoid biting insects.
Goll Woods near Archbold (naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/
gollwoods) is the least-disturbed woodland known to remain in extreme northwestern Ohio, according to ODNR, and features some of the largest trees remaining in the state.
The 321-acre preserve in Fulton County is best visited in the spring before mosquitoes emerge, which also is the best time to see wildflowers along the trails.
Goll Woods Spring Wildflower Walk is planned for 11 a.m. April 25. In addition to an array of wildflowers, the tour highlight remnants of the Great Black Swamp and visitors can see what the entire area looked like when it was covered with dense forest and a swampy terrain. Some trees still standing are virgin forest more than 400 years old.
Lawrence Woods in Hardin County contains more than 1,000 acres. From the boardwalk, heart-leaf plantain can be seen. The endangered species can be seen at only three sites in Ohio. Grovewort, another state-listed species also can be seen, along with spring wildflowers.
The address is 13278 CR 190, Kenton.
Other state nature preserves open to see spring blooms are Miller Nature Sanctuary, Highland County; Clifton Gorge, Greene County; Christmas Rocks, Fairfield County; Gross Memorial Woods, Shelby County; and Eagle Creek, Portage County.
State parks where wildflowers are plentiful include Hueston Woods, Butler County; Caesar Creek, Warren County; Shawnee, Scioto County; Hocking Hills, Hocking County; Salt Fork, Guernsey County; Mohican, Ashland County; Mt. Gilead, Morrow County; Lake Hope, Vinton County; and Punderson, Geauga County.