NATURE NOTES Number 19 April 28, 2021
Introduction: Springtime is here, and with it comes an exploding opportunity to see and enjoy nature. One of the things we notice all around us are flowers – the garden variety around our home and parks, and those that are often overlooked.
Our current topic: Wildflowers
Ok, confession time. This is an area where I am rather weak. However, it is something many people are interested in and is a critical part of nature. I will start with this: several years ago, a friend of mine made several trips up to Camp Ottari over a period of several months looking for wildflowers. The area of focus was around main camp, down toward Mountain Man camp, and up toward the water tank. As a result of her visits, she identified and photographed 91 species of wildflowers. I was amazed at that number. What I learned was that you had to look hard to find some of these little gems on the forest floor. I also learned that there are different wildflowers blooming at different times all throughout the spring and summer. June gives a totally different experience than April. I make note of this to point out that even though you might not be able to identify all of the flowers you find on your outdoor treks, just looking for them and pointing out to the scouts the diversity of flowers is an excellent way to introduce them to nature. Since some of the flowers are not abundant, and maybe even somewhat rare, don’t pick them. Use a cell phone to capture their photo and then come home and see how many you can identify using a good field guide. You too might be surprised at how many you can collect that way. Make a list, and if you visit the same area later, compare the first list with what you find on the second visit. This will show the difference in the timing of the blooms. Think about it. Flowers provide nectar to a variety of insects. If the flowers all bloomed at the same time, the insects would run out of food along the way. Nature has this schedule down quite well. These same insects will also pollinate these flowers at the correct time as part of their feeding.
If you do get into identifying wildflowers, detail is important. It’s a lot more than “that little yellow flower”. There is terminology you need to learn. Field guides will usually provide that. As with many plants, and animals to some extent, the common names of flowers will vary within regions or among various people, so don’t be surprised if you find new names for old friends you may have known for a while. These flowers are like most plants, they have certain favorite growing conditions. Note the area surrounding them. Is it deeply shaded? Is it low and usually moist? Does it get sunlight at a particular time of day? Is it rocky? Are you in a field or the edge of the forest or deep in the woods? A great opportunity to show scouts that different species tend to select a specific site.
There are probably some scout Moms (or Dads) out there that would love to have the opportunity to go on an outing looking for wildflowers. They may be very familiar with garden flowers, and this would be an interesting thing for them to do with the scouts. Ask around. They may be willing to bring along a good field guide to help identify what you find.