Warm weather is here and spring wildflower season is already underway! When I read about Cleveland Metroparks Tour of Wildflowers, I thought it sounded like fun and something I could do with my kids over spring break.
The first thing I did was signup online at clevelandmetroparks.com. I received a confirmation email along with an official Tour of Wildflowers checklist. The list recommended using a field guide, “Wildflowers of Ohio” by Robert L. Henn. A field guide made sense to me because my experience with wildflowers was limited to admiring pretty flowers, but totally clueless trying to identify them. After completing my first wildflower walk using a field guide, I totally agree with this recommendation. It's a must-have if you are trying to identify wildflowers. The pages are colored coded, which helps make identification a lot easier. And, remember this "…the appearance of the leaves or stem are as important as the flower in its identification." Some flowers look similar in color and shape but you'll need to look closely at their leaves to correctly identify them. Helpful Hint: Review the field guide before adventuring out.
On the Friday before Easter, I packed up my son (age 11) and daughter (age 14) along with their two friends and we were off on our "wild" adventure. We made a quick stop at our local public library to pick up a copy of the field guide.
We chose North Chagrin Reservation for two reasons: 1.) It's the closest reservation to our house. 2.) Scenic Loop Trail is one of the best trails in Cleveland Metroparks for viewing wildflowers.
Our adventure began as soon as we entered North Chagrin Reservation. We spotted a wild turkey running across the parkway into the woods! We tried to snap a photo, but that turkey was too quick for us. We parked the car and did a quick inventory to see if we had everything we needed:
1.) Wildflower field guide. Check.
2.) Digital camera. Check. (for taking selfies with wildflowers to verify our find)
3.) Pen for checking off our checklist. Check.
We found the trailhead and we were off. At first we saw mud and lots of dead leaves, and I started to wonder, where are the wildflowers?
But, we kept walking along the 1.6 mile Scenic Loop Trail. We found plenty of flowers that had not bloomed yet, but would within a couple of weeks. I was thinking we might need to come back. "Maybe we are a bit too early," I thought. But we pressed on. As we walked deeper into the woods, we saw a few flowers here and there. Then, we found more and more flowers! Here some of the wildflowers we identified:
Squawroot (when freshly bloomed it’s white)
Spring Beauty (color ranges from white to pink with pink streaks)
Hepatica (color can range from white to pink to purple)
And, we saw some things on our walk that weren't on our checklist.
Cute dogs on leashes
Cute boys (as identified by the two 14-year girls)
A bone!!!! - I’m guessing it was probably from a deer. But, that didn't stop the wild imagination of my crew from making up a crazy CSI-like explanation for the bone. Their story included a murder, a chase, a ninja and a kidnapping! I found myself wondering who is having more fun...me or the kids?
In addition to trying to identify wildflowers and checking off our checklist we also: talked, laughed, learned new things, poked around "stuff" with investigating sticks, exercised, explored a creek, hugged a tree, enjoyed the warm weather, soaked up the sun, breathed fresh air, used a field guide for the first time, saw wildlife, had a lot of fun and promised to come back next week to see what's in bloom!
We checked off about a dozen wildflowers on our list, and we're hopeful to check off even more in the next coming weeks. Spring wildflower season begins in February when skunk cabbage blooms and goes through early June (of course, then there’s summer wildflower season). In addition to Scenic Loop Trail in North Chagrin Reservation, other excellent places in Cleveland Metroparks to find wildflowers include:
Bedford Reservation – Hemlock Creek Loop Trail (0.8 miles) offers an amazing display of Virginia bluebells. This area is a great place to view many different species of local spring wildflowers. See rue anemone, adder’s tongue, wild geranium, bloodroot, buttercups, violets, wild blue phlox, wild ginger…just to name a few.
Big Creek Reservation – Apple Ridge and Beech Hill are great places to witness a diversity of many ephemerals.
Bradley Woods Reservation – Bunns Lake Wildlife Area offers excellent viewing of ferns and flowering trees.
Brecksville Reservation – Wildflower Loop Trail (.75 miles) features spring wildflowers that are labeled on the trail from March through June. Species include: skunk cabbage, marsh marigolds, spring beauties, trout lily, Jack-in-the-pulpit, cut-leaved toothwort, and great white trillium.
Euclid Creek Reservation – Squirrel Run Trail (1.2 miles) runs along the base of a hillside that hosts squirrel corn, Dutchmen’s breeches, trillium, trout lily, hepatica, and wild geraniums.
Hinckley Reservation – The Bridle/Buckeye Trail section between Johnson’s Picnic Area and Ledge Lake Loop Trail showcases hillsides of white trillium, wild geranium, Jack-in-the-pulpit, hepatica, blue cohosh, rue anemone, and cut-leaved toothwort.
Huntington Reservation – Along the Porter Creek Trail view bloodroot, toothwort and spring beauty.
Mill Stream Run Reservation - South Quarry Loop Trail (1.1 miles) features spring species along the East Branch of the Rocky River, including golden Alexanders, Virginia bluebells and trout lily. The bridle trail just north of the Chalet is an excellent exhibit of Virginia bluebells. Royalview Picnic Area is famous for bluebells, too. The Butterfly Trail near W.J. Green Lodge is good for viewing trillium, cresses, leeks and trout lily.
Rocky River Reservation – The Hauser Wildflower Garden, a maintained spring wildflower garden, is beautiful as is Willow Bend where violets, trout lily, bloodroot and false rue anemone can be found.
South Chagrin Reservation – Sulphur Springs Loop Trail (1.1 miles), off Sulphur Springs Picnic Area, showcases wood betony, blue cohosh, toothwort, spring cress, bloodroot, and all the spring beauties.
A few things to remember when embarking on the Tour of Wildflowers:
1.) Register for the Tour of Wildflowers online at clevelandmetroparks.com. A checklist will be emailed to you after you register. All wildflowers on this year's checklist can be found in “Wildflowers of Ohio” by Robert L. Henn.
2.) Explore a Cleveland Metroparks wildflower trail on your own. Or, attend a wildflower walk led by a Cleveland Metroparks naturalist. Walks are listed on clevelandmetroparks.com and in the “Emerald Necklace” publication.
3.) Take a selfie of you with each flower.
4.) Bring your checklist along with your photos to a Cleveland Metroparks nature center to have the pictures approved. Or email your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
5.) After your checklist is completed, bring it along with a clean white, cotton T-shirt to North Chagrin Nature Center to be silkscreened and transformed into an official Tour of Wildflowers T-shirt. If you complete the tour you are also eligible to attend the Tour Party on June 21 ($5 fee to cover snacks).
6.) Tour of Wildflowers runs from March 1 - June 7. Last day for picture verification is June 14. Last day for T-shirts is June 21 (Tour Party).
7.) Please don't pick the wildflowers. Let them be. Let them be so we all can enjoy them this year and for years to come.
After we completed our first wildflower walk, I realized Cleveland Metroparks IS where the wildflowers are. Just like it says in the movie adapted from the children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” written by Maurice Sendak, “There should be a place where only the things you want to happen, happen.”