Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Celebrating Wildflowers

As a child I use to merrily frolic in wildflower meadows. I remember picking flowers to gift to my mom or make headpieces with my friends out of our favorite wildflowers. I loved dandelion blooms. Some of my most treasured memories of those times were sitting in a grassy meadow picking dandelions and making long chains that we would dangle around our necks and then dance around. At the time I didn't give any thought to the actual flowers and their purpose, I was a child after all and I just liked them because they were pretty. But what is a wildflower?


Long ago I defined wildflowers as any flower that grew in the ditches alongside the road or in meadows and fields that hadn't been intentionally planted or seeded but appeared as nature intended.


As I've become more educated in plants I am aware that many of the plants that grow alongside the road and show up in disturbed areas are non-native, invasive plant species that do not fall in my current definition of a wildflower. How times have changed from the carefree days as a child. Now, I feel a responsibility to these plants and my local habitat.


Today we use words such as native, invasive, introduced, or naturalized to more accurately describe the source of plants. It has changed how I define wildflowers. My current definition is a native species that naturally occurs in an area. Should native hybrids be part of this definition? Or naturalized species (introduced species that are considered native)?


In addition to being pretty, wildflowers provide crucial habitat for insects and birds, conserve water, and protect soil from erosion.


Now a days roadsides are often sprayed by county or state agencies or mowed at the wrong time of year making conditions more than challenging for wildflowers to grow and support the local ecosystem. Likewise, fields and meadows are hard to find today. They are gobbled up by strip malls, subdivisions and stores which are surrounded by massive parking lots and typically landscaped with non-native plants.


So this week is National Wildflower Week. An entire week set aside to celebrate our beloved wildflowers and provide learning opportunities on the importance of these plants.


Wildflowers can easily be incorporated into the home landscape. In fact it is become more and more critical that homeowners plant native species to support our pollinators. Every week insects are making the news because they are in danger due to loss of habitat. And yet, it seems to take a lot of convincing to get the public to pay heed to this message.


Plant wildflowers. Stop using pesticides and insecticides. Plant native. Attract pollinators & beneficial insects. Enjoy the natural beauty!

That love of the first dandelion has stayed with me. A member of the Asteraceae family, some of my favorite wildflowers are included in this group such as sunflowers, asters and ageratum. Wildflowers have a way of bringing us closer to nature. This is something that is missing from childhood today.

Take sometime this week to plant some wildflowers in your garden, visit a nature preserve to learn more about your local flora, remove invasive plants or join your local native plant society. Wildflowers and wildlife go together and the rewards are endless.

12 comments:

  1. I love wildflowers and have stuffed as many as possible into my garden. :o) They're pretty and attract pollinators so what's not to love?

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    1. I agree Tammy! We are trying to buy more land around us so we have even more area to plant. We have a new meadow area we seeded with native wildflowers. Maybe next year it will be established enough to photograph.

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  2. This is a great post, Karin. Yay, for wildflowers! The Trilliums in the woods behind our house are blooming now. I feel so blessed to have them blooming wild where I can see them out the back window. I do, however, need to do my yearly yanking of the invasive Garlic Mustard. Good thing it's edible and tastes great in salads and hummus!

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    1. How fabulous to see naturally growing flowers! We have a few in our woods too and hope more will find their way once we get the invasive plants out. It is a constant battle. Yesterday I was about to pull out some Japanese honeysuckle and a hummingbird came by to get nectar. It smells so sweet but it is evil on a vine. Nice that you can make something good out of your invasive plant.

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  3. I find that I am increasingly interested in native plants, but am confused about the way to define a wildflower.As you ask, is a hybrid version of a native plant still a wildflower? I start to think of all the weird and wacky forms of echinacea. The purist in me wants to say, no they are not exactly "wildflowers". I do get your point about the importance of native plants though.
    Are you getting excited about the Fling? Already a temperature of 30 degrees forecast for the weekend. And we are almost in a drought situation. I have no idea what early of June might bring. Should be fun though!

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    1. I am really looking forward to the fling Jennifer! The schedule looks amazing and I can't wait to meet you!

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  4. I find that I am increasingly interested in native plants, but am confused about the way to define a wildflower.As you ask, is a hybrid version of a native plant still a wildflower? I start to think of all the weird and wacky forms of echinacea. The purist in me wants to say, no they are not exactly "wildflowers". I do get your point about the importance of native plants though.
    Are you getting excited about the Fling? Already a temperature of 30 degrees forecast for the weekend. And we are almost in a drought situation. I have no idea what early of June might bring. Should be fun though!

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  5. I am just like you Karin in my love of wildflowers as a kid. All fond memories. Lovely images in your post.

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    1. Thanks Donna! Those were the good old days. It is sad that so many children grow up today without those sorts of experiences.

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  6. I have vivid memories of the wildflower from when I was a kid. We had wild roses, bluebells, fireweed, buttercups, dandelions, and other flowers I didn't know the name of. We would split the dandelion stems and watch them curl in water, and pick other flowers. It is so sad that we are losing so many wildflowers, and I am glad that they are getting some well-deserved attention. I grow a lot of wildflower seeds that I get online from Prairie Moon Nursery, and try to incorporate them in the garden for our pollinators and other wildlife. I think it will be up to gardeners to try to save some of these wildflowers.

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    1. I agree Indie. I ordered wildflower seeds from Prairie Moon this year for two different locations and soil conditions. I am anxious to see how they grow over the next year.

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  7. I remember those wildflower meadows too especially the black-eyed susans in summer. I took keep adding more wildflowers and try for species of I can get it. I am most distressed when I see the spraying and mowing on roadsides killing or damaging wildflowers trying to take hold and put on a show....especially distressed with the milkweed that is mowed without thought on roadsides....I need to get to my State Rep and have him look into....can you imagine mowing down a whole stretch of butterfly weed...a short showy plant that doesn't need to be mowed and what monarchs were destroyed....Sigh!

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"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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