Wildflower Adventures: Engaging Your Child’s Curiosity in Nature
Wed., Apr. 5, 2023
By Dana Lettl, Family & Youth Engagement Educator
With pockets of color popping up all over Northeast Ohio, wildflower hunting is the perfect activity for everyone in your family. Keep reading for some tips on how to create an engaging wildflower hunt with your family and a starter’s list for some common Ohio wildflowers.
Tips for a great Wildflower Hunt
- Look with your eyes, not with your hands. While it might be tempting to pick a flower or two during your wildflower hunt, it is better to “pic” and not “pick”! Snapping a shot on your camera or smartphone not only allows others to enjoy their beauty, but also allows these beautiful plants to continue to provide to their ecosystem. Have an artist on your hunt? Encourage your child to draw the various plants and flowers found on your hunt instead of collecting them.
- Make it a game. For younger children, try to find a flower for every color in the rainbow. Who can find the most flowers? What about the smallest? Tallest? Not sure of the name of the plant? Have some fun and make up a name for it based on shape, color, size, or smell!
- Yep, there’s an app for that! You don’t need a background in botany to have a fun and rewarding wildflower hunt. There are plenty of resources for people with all levels of knowledge. Apps such as “iNaturalist” and “Seek” allow you to identify flowers straight from your phone. There is also a plethora of field guide books that are family-friendly. Still unsure about a plant? Snap a picture and submit here on our webpage, where one of our staff members will happily help identify.
- Not sure where to look? Holden Arboretum is the perfect launching pad for your very first wildflower hunt. Check out our various curated gardens and our weekly “It’s Poppin’!” blog to see the who, what, and where of blooms on Holden property.
What to look for
1. Cut-leaved toothwort: Graceful and droopy white flowers and distinctive leaves are good indicators of cut-leaved toothwort. Coarse and rounded teeth mark the leaves of this plant, which are indicated in the plant’s name. A spring ephemeral, this wildflower starts its blooms in late March.
2. Jack-in-the-pulpit: An exotic-looking wildflower, jack-in-the-pulpits are a special find. Look for this plant in shady, moist, woods and floodplains.
3. Skunk Cabbage: As the name suggests, you are more likely to smell this plant before seeing it. The odorous flowers of this plant attract many pollinators such as gnats, beetles, and flies. Skunk cabbage is one of the first to appear in early spring and can be found in wet, marshy areas. It can even bloom while snow is still on the ground, thanks to the plant’s heat-producing property known as thermogenesis.
4. Bloodroot: Lucky viewers will enjoy the short, 1–2day blooms of bloodroots that occurs in early spring. This flower models perfect symmetry, with anywhere from 8-12 flowers on their white flowers. This plant gets its name from the red liquid found in the roots.
5. Trilliums: Trilliums are best identified by counting their petals- three! There are over 30 types of trilliums native to the U.S., eight of which can be found in Ohio. Most found in Ohio are white, but they also can be found in deep plum shades.
6. Dutchman’s breeches: The irregular shape of the dutchman’s breeches makes this one of the most easily identifiable spring ephemerals in Ohio. The name of breeches was given to this plant because of the pantaloon-shaped white and yellow flowers that dangle from a long stem. The leaves of Dutchman’s breeches resemble those of a fern. Rich forests and shaded ledges make the perfect habitat for this wildflower.
7. Yellow Trout lily: Solitary, nodding, yellow flowers denote this beloved wildflower. The petals of a trout lily will bend backwards to expose the brown stamens found at its center. A close relative, the White Trout Lily, takes a similar form with white petals.
Family & Youth Engagement Educator
Originally from Northeast Ohio, I quickly returned to the area after earning my Bachelor’s degree in Ecosystem Science and Policy from The University of Miami in 2022. Many visits to local nature centers and parks instilled my passion for the environment at a very young age, and I feel so privileged to be able to share that passion through my work.