Wildflowers are the ‘crown jewels’ of spring

'Little Britches' by: Mary-Ellen Bertram, 2015 Wildflower Photo Contest Winner
‘Little Britches’ by: Mary-Ellen Bertram, 2015 Wildflower Photo Contest Winner

A picture can be worth a thousand words. The problem with a photograph of nature is that it doesn’t quite replicate the experience. It doesn’t capture the fragrance of pine trees in the air, the hundred minutely varying shades of green or the sound of birds singing in the trees. It also doesn’t capture the peaceful feeling created by the absence of urban sounds or how small you feel in the vastness of a ancient oak tree. You have to go out and experience it.

Spring rains create wetlands teeming with flowers, frogs, salamanders, insects, and birds. Plants and wildlife make the most of this rich, wet habitat before summer’s heat turns it to mud. Dipping a net or cup into the water will reveal tadpoles, insects, eggs and possibly small fish. Wetlands are a critical rest area for migrating waterfowl and birds.

Returning birds are finding mates, building nests and raising young. Dead trees in the woods are not a nuisance to be removed, but rather a source of food for woodpeckers as well as a home for many mammals and birds like raccoons, squirrels, wood ducks and owls. Fallen branches decay and provide food and homes for insects. Just roll over a log in the woods and see what lies beneath it.

The crown jewel of the woods in the spring are the ephemeral wildflowers. They push their way up through the carpet of compost left by last autumns’ decaying leaves. Painting the ground in shades of pink, blue, yellow and white, these flowers bloom and fade quickly as the tree canopy begins to leaf out. Trout lilies, bluebells, spring beauties, mayapples, bloodroot, trillium, and wild ginger, the names are as interesting as the plants themselves.

Sometimes what is missing in a natural place is as important as what is present. Invasive plants like garlic mustard, bush honeysuckle and reed canary grass spread quickly. Their growth drastically reduces biodiversity and, left unchecked, invasive species destroy natural areas. A great deal of work is required to remove invasive species from wetlands, prairies, and woodlands so the natural cycle of growth can continue for future generations.

Spring is a time usually defined by mowers, mulch, fertilizer, and weed control. We work tirelessly and spend quite a bit of money trying to tame the chaos of spring and beautify our yards. But in nature, spring is a rapidly changing orchestra of awakening, growth and renewal.

Come and experience the symphony of spring at Red-tail Land Conservancy’s Wildflower Celebration on May 15. Wildflower tours will be given throughout Phyllis and Frank Yuhas Woods, an exceptionally preserved woodland, 1-5 p.m. At 1 p.m. Woody Statler from Jack’s Camera Shop will teach a wildflower photography session. Participants in the photography session will have the chance to enter into the photo contest.

A dinner will follow the wildflower tours and photography contest 5-7 p.m. at the Cabin Creek cabin. Tickets for the dinner are $10 a person and included a door-prize raffle for a Bundy Duck decoy.

 

Kim McKenzie

Kim McKenzie

Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator
Kim is passionate about the beauty of the outdoors and spiritual connection with nature, and sharing that with others.