Ohio native spring wildflowers ready to make their arrival soon

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Skunk cabbage in full bloom. (Ohio State University photo)
Skunk cabbage in full bloom. (Ohio State University photo)

COLUMBUS — Ohioans will soon have their winter patience rewarded with a display of native spring wildflowers.

The wildflower show typically starts in mid-March in Ohio’s southern counties before gradually moving northward as the season ends in the latter half of May, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.

Ephermals

Often known as spring ephemerals, woodland spring wildflowers are awakened by warmer temperatures and longer days. Temperatures and rainfall can vary in any given year, determining whether Ohio’s wildflower show is early, on time, or late.

Many hibernate as bulbs that begin to pierce the thawed soil as early as March. They take advantage of the abundant sunlight reaching the ground before the trees blossom and bloom.

Once the forest floor darkens with shade, the displays decrease significantly. They flower and set to seed and then go dormant all before summer, hence their “ephemeral” moniker.

From your own backyard to the state forests, parks, preserves and wildlife areas, Ohio’s spring wildflower displays can be spotted across the state. While most woods in Ohio contain at least a few native spring wildflowers, the best displays are found in older, more undisturbed locations away from urban areas. Centuries of leaf and wood decay make for rich soil that benefits our first bloomers.

Skunk cabbage

Ohio’s first native wildflower is already in bloom. Known as skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), this oddity occurs throughout Ohio’s wetland habitats such as swamp woods and seeps.

Skunk cabbage gets its name partially because of its odor. While not the most appealing wildflower to us, it does a great job of attracting its pollinators such as flies and beetles.

ODNR encourages Ohioans to keep an eye out for the state’s more common and widespread spring wildflowers, such as bloodroot, spring beauty, large-flowered trillium (Ohio’s state wildflower), Virginia bluebells, wild geranium, Dutchman’s breeches, mayapple, and jack-in-the-pulpit.

Explorers can cross off all the spring bloomers they encounter with ODNR’s new spring wildflower checklist. For more information on the progress of Ohio’s spring wildflowers, check out the Ohio wildflower bloom report.

This report will be updated every Friday through mid-May with the latest reports on what’s in bloom, what’s to come, and where to catch the greatest action.

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