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.
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.