Parks Offer Opportunity to see Wildflowers

Source: NWRS, Carl Evans.As winter begins to wane, wildflowers are beginning to peek up and blanket areas at parks and public lands around the country. National Wildlife Refuges provide some of the best opportunities for visitors to enjoy the vibrant colors and natural beauty of wildflowers.

Many refuges work to encourage the growth of wildflowers by harvesting seeds and replanting them. This growth serves a benefit to local species, especially bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Refuges also offer programs to allow visitors to appreciate and learn about the multicolored flowers. Such programs include guided walks, demonstration gardens and web pages containing information about growing and where to find seeds.

Staff at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge plant up to 250 species of native plants every year at the refuge. Prairie violets are some of the first to pop up and begin the spectacle in April with wild geranium and sweet william not far behind. A butterfly garden and tall-grass trail exist at the refuge and attract mass numbers of butterflies. On May 18, the refuge will be hosting a spring photo hike for visitors to capture the vibrant flowers.

Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge is anticipating a great spring bloom this April. More than 40 species of native flowers attract moths and butterflies at the refuge’s Bayscape Garden. The garden is openly daily at 7:30 am until sunset. Some of its highlights include: goldenrod (solidago), columbine, rudbeckia, coreopsis, phlox and gaillardia.

Wildfires and droughts present in the region near Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge won’t slow the growth of flowers at the refuge. In fact, they help to promote it. The refuge will be hosting wildflower walks on May 11, 18 and 25. Indian paintbrush and multiple species of coneflowers are among favorites of the area.

“Usually, wildlife photographers are out here getting photos of Indian blanket, coreopsis tinctoria and wild blue indigo,” says visitor services staffer Quinton Smith. “Prickly pear is starting to bloom then. Barrel cactus has beautiful pink flowers on it.”

The colors and types of flowers visitors see at these refuges is partially determined by weather. Certain flowers react differently to stimulus than others. For example, while drought may dim some flowers, others are heightened because of it. Regions for native flowers play a factor too. This is why refuges plant flowers native to their region and urge visitors to do the same if they wish to plant at home.

“It depends how much snowpack we get in the winter or rainfall in the spring,” says Neal Smith refuge manager Christy Smith. “The wonderful thing about native plants is that they are able to adapt to temporal changes,” says Smith.

Planting native species of wildflower provides support to native birds, insects and pollinators in the region. Native species that evolved in local environments develop relationships with other plant and animal species in the area that allows them to coexist and grow together. The National Wildlife Refuges provide information for visitors to learn about planting their own wildflowers. Those looking to do so can learn where to order seeds native to their regions and the maintenance the flowers will require; however, many of the native wildflowers require low maintenance to bloom.

National Wildlife Refuges all over the country provide the opportunity to see brilliant displays of wildflowers. Check the Oh, Ranger! website or download the free Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder app to find a park near you.

Image: A golden field of coreopsis blooms in spring at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. Source: NWRS; Carl Evans.