Venture: Spring Wildflowers

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From the March 8, 2012 edition

Snow trillium unfolds with three white petals, the kind of bloom that you’d imagine surrounding adorable forest friends in a Disney cartoon. Skunk cabbage is big, brash and even smelly, something that could be announced with a few sour notes from a tuba.

Roughly 2,300 species of wildflowers call Ohio home, and spring shows off the diversity and intrigue of our native collection.

This eerily warm winter could quicken the annual unveiling by a few weeks, said Martin McAllister, a regional preserve manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Even in a normal year, though, skunk cabbage can bloom as early as late February in places like Gahanna Woods State Nature Preserve in Gahanna. Snow trillium can be found around the middle of March at places like John Bryan State Park in Yellow Springs.

Also appearing early in spring are the snow-white crests of bloodroot, purple delicacies known as spring beauty and the natural treasure known as hepatica.

Ohio’s spring season usually peaks from the middle to the end of April, McAllister said.

In those halcyon days, you’ll have trouble keeping species straight. Intricate specimens like jack-in-the-pulpit and Dutchman’s breeches arise. So do colorful creations like marsh marigold and numerous types of violets.

Some species even get their own party, like the federally threatened lakeside daisy, which is highlighted annually in May by Lakeside Daisy Day on the Marblehead Peninsula.

Even harder than your plant IDs will be narrowing down the list of must-see destinations, as local Metro Parks and ODNR spaces host a range of flower hikes.

To see great spring displays, McAllister suggested a trio of state nature preserves.

In late March, hit Whipple, which lies a mile off the Ohio River in Adams County and offers a two-mile hiking loop through forest and around dolomite cliffs. In early April, head to Clifton Gorge, a Yellow Springs preserve that borders the Little Miami River. Finally, in late April, traverse the wooden boardwalk at Fowler Woods in Richland County.