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Wildflowers

February

Skunk cabbage can be found in many wetlands throughout Cleveland Metroparks, and when bruised or broken the distinct odor of a skunk can be smelled giving it its common name. The plant can create its own heat from rapid respiration in their starchy root; often melting a thin layer of snow or ice around the plant. Early active bees, flies and beetles may seek out the spathe, as the odor and color of carrion attracts them to the flower that may provide a meal for these early insects.

April

The race is on! Ephemeral spring wildflowers bloom and are pollinated before the leaves of trees shade the forest floor. Early in the month hepatica highlights the grey brown of the forest floor with purple even before new leaves appear. Soon to bloom are the yellow of trout lilies among the whites of squirrel corn and Dutchman’s breeches; by the end of the month white and purple trillium come into bloom. West side reservations bloom before the east, providing those willing to travel a brief extension of this fleeting season.

May

A walk along a river in a floodplain forest one can be rewarded with blankets of Virginia bluebells and wild hyacinth intermixed with yellows of golden-alexanders and golden ragwort. These botanical gems come and go quickly and can easily be missed. These perennials grow and quickly die back storing energy underground in roost and tubers waiting for the following spring to begin the cycle again. Seeds of these spring wildflowers are dispersed in many ways, but the association of many with ants carrying them underground is truly awesome!

June

Wetlands come into bloom this month as the water lilies floating on the surface providing a place for dragonflies to rest. Along the edges the purples of native pickerelweed are joined by yellow iris a beautiful but aggressive non native flower. Cow parsnip as tall as a person appears with umbrella shaped white blossoms along stream banks and marsh edges.

July

The stunning colors of large rosemallow and pickerelweed flowers adorn the edges of wetlands and ponds. Milkweed – the host plant of the monarch butterfly – begins to explode its crown of pink flowers. Large fields hold tall stands of purple ironweed and its look-alike Joe-pye weed, purple coneflower, Queen Anne’s lace, all important plants for nectaring insects. Jewelweed is flourishing in vast clumps in sunlit patches of woodlands and woodland edges. By the end of July, early goldenrod, first of many goldenrods to bloom, becomes a harbinger of autumn as it adds touches of bright yellow to shady open places along parkways.

August

The rich soil nutrients found in floodplain forests allow some of the tallest wildflowers in Cleveland Metroparks to thrive. Yellows of wingstem, green-headed coneflower and cup plant can grow over 10 feet tall which are highlighted with the lavenders of the shorter wild bergamot and wood sage. These insect pollinated plants are great places to search for predators, such as assassin bugs and crab spiders waiting patiently for their next meal.

September

The yellow of goldenrods begin to highlight meadows and as the month progresses they are joined by asters, including the rich purples of New England aster and tall ironweed. This is perfect timing as their nectar fuels the southward journey of monarch butterflies and the pollen is utilized by beetles and bees as a high energy meal. These insect pollinated plants are often accused for fall hay fevers, but that belongs to ragweed and other wind pollinated plants.