The first week of May is National Wildflower Week!
To celebrate, we are highlighting three native wildflowers from different regions of the country in a four-part scavenger hunt series. If you live east of the Mississippi River, we challenge you to visit your local National Forest this spring and find these three native wildflowers.
An important reminder before you get started. We often want to save the beauty of flowers by picking them, but it is important that we leave flowers for wildlife that depend on their seeds, nectar, and pollen for food. Save wildflowers’ beauty by taking a photo, not taking the plant.
- What I look like: Jack-in-the-Pulpit's are about one to three feet tall and have one or two large, glossy leaves divided in three. The green cylindrical flower has a brown striped hood that gives this plant its unique look.
- When I bloom: March to June *. Once the flower has faded, a cluster of bright red berries will take its place in late summer.
- Where you can find me: Jack-in-the-Pulpit is found throughout the Eastern half of the United States in deciduous woodlands and forests, floodplains, and swamps and marshes. Jack-in-the-Pulpit's love shade and rich, moist soils, so look for them in seasonally wet locations and along streams and creeks.
- A fun fact about me: While birds and small mammals enjoy eating Jack-in-the-Pulpit's red berries, you should not! The berries are not edible and contain calcium oxalate that can irritate the skin. Look but don’t touch!
Eastern Red Columbine
- What I look like: Eastern Red Columbine is a beautiful, native wildflower that has clover-like compound leaves and red and yellow flowers that hang down from its steams. The Eastern Red Columbine’s genus name Aquilegia comes from the Latin word for eagle because the shape of the petals is said to look like an eagle’s claw.
- When I bloom: March to July *.
- Where you can find me: Eastern Red Columbine is found throughout the Eastern half of the United States in a wide range of woodlands and rocky outcrops. Eastern Red Columbine thrives in partial shade and a range of soil conditions from moist to gravelly so look for them along woodland edges, riverbanks, and gravelly shores and ridges.
- A fun fact about me: Hummingbirds pollinate Eastern Red Columbine and depend on them as an important source of nectar.
- What I look like: Eastern bluestar is one to three feet tall and has narrow, oval leaves that grow from a single stem. Its light blue flowers grow in clusters at the tip of each stem. Each flower has five petals that flare into a star shape.
- When I bloom: March to May*.
- Where you can find me: Eastern bluestar is found throughout the Eastern half of the United States south of Michigan, most commonly in wet, sandy, open, and rocky woodlands and thickets. Eastern bluestar requires part shade and rich, moist soil and can be found on river shores and rocky forests.
- A fun fact about me: Deer and other herbivores avoid the Eastern bluestar because its leaves contain a toxic white latex.
* Flowers in warmer southern climates will bloom sooner than flowers in cooler northern climates. Check with your local U.S. Forest Service office to see when flowers will be blooming locally.
Ready to start your scavenger hunt? Find a National Forest near you.
Sources and Additional Resources for Identifying Wildflowers
Cover photo by Bill Glass.
Did you learn something new in this blog post? We hope so! The ecology that binds together everything on our National Forests is a fragile web, and we at the NFF are committed to doing all we can to ensure the healthiest forest ecology we can. To do so requires the support of caring individuals like you. Will you join us to ensure this critical work continues? Simply click here to join with thousands in this important work. Thank you!