Spring Wildflowers of Summit Metro Parks
Dave Daly, Interpretive Naturalist
Spring wildflowers are harbingers of warmer times to come. As temperatures rise and light percolates down to the forest floor, early bloomers rise to the occasion, basking in the sunshine that will soon be unavailable once the deciduous trees and shrubs leaf out, claiming the light for themselves.
Now is a great time to get out on a trail and seek out these ephemeral beauties! Learn more below about some of the wildflowers you may see this time of year and where to find them in Summit Metro Parks.
Bloodroot gets its name from the orange-red sap found in the plant’s rhizome and above-ground stems. Native Americans used the liquid as a dye and for medicinal purposes. This showy white flower is quite large compared to other spring ephemerals at 1.5–2 inches in diameter. Once in bloom, they don’t last long! A mature flower may only be on display for a day or two. Look for these gorgeous flowers growing with a single kidney bean shaped leaf wrapped around them like a shawl on the forest floor.
Cut-leaved toothwort gets its name from the deeply lobed leaves found on the plant. A member of the mustard family, you may be familiar with some of its relatives, including some delicious salad fixings like arugula and radishes, as well as the ever-weedy garlic mustard. These small, white flowers are easy to spot and usually abundant in many of our parks this time of the year.
Part of the buttercup family, these showy little yellow flowers are actually composed of sepals (modified leaves), not true petals! Look for marsh marigold in wetter areas such as along the trails at Furnace Run. What you won’t see are the ultraviolet pigments in the sepals that attract certain insects but aren’t visible to the human eye.
Yellow Trout Lily
Yellow trout lilies are in the lily family and grow from a bulb that is very similar, albeit smaller, than the ones that tulips arise from in yards and gardens across Northeast Ohio. Trout lily flowers are composed of six showy yellow “tepals,” essentially a combination of petals and sepals. Six stamens (male parts) are easily seen protruding from the center. Trout lily leaves are quite botanically interesting too with their molted brown and green coloring. A close relative, the white trout lily (E. albidum) can also be found in Summit Metro Parks!
Nothing says spring has sprung like a carpet of bluebells blooming on the forest floor. Large colonies densely covering the ground are not uncommon this time of the year and are definite crowd pleasers. Plants can reach heights of over two feet. Look for displays in damp woodlands, including O’Neil Woods and Goodyear Heights.
Another member of the buttercup family, rue-anemone are elegant perennial flowers white to pinkish in appearance. They can thrive in a variety of habitats, be it wetter lowlands or drier uplands. Rue-anemone is commonly a component of diverse wildflower habitats where a variety of species are present.
With two large, noticeable leaves and one sizeable white flower with showy stamens, mayapple is quite conspicuous and easy to find in our parks this time of year. Named for the greenish, yellow fruit shaped like an apple that appears later in the season, mayapples depend mostly on vegetative reproduction as rhizomes grow and spread underground, forming colonies. However, when flowers are pollinated and fruits form, box turtles eat the fruit and are believed to be the main seed distributors!
Common Blue Violet
A common site in woodlands and open spaces, including urban landscapes, these beautiful purple flowers might be the first spring wildflower many folks see. In fact, if you have a greenspace near your home, there is a great chance you may have some growing right there! Look for edible candies and jellies made from blue violets at your local farm markets and cooperatives.
Like other members of the aster family, these “flowers” are actually a composite of eight to 13 ray flowers surrounding a tight cluster of disc flowers. If you happen upon ragwort before the flowers open, you might be surprised to see purple buds that give way to the stunning yellow blooms pictured. Look for colonies of ragworts in shaded woodlands and sunnier areas along trails and roads.
“Leaves of three, let them be,” is a common refrain to deter folks from touching poison ivy. Well, large-flowered trillium has leaves, sepals and petals in threes! Although they won’t cause contact dermatitis like poison ivy, it’s best to avoid touching them and observe with your eyes only. These bright, white flowers are easy to spot along the Oxbow trail at Cascade Valley and turn a radiant reddish-pink as the season progresses. Fleshy attachments to the seeds attract ants who are the main seed dispersers of large-flowered and other trilliums.
To learn more about plants and animals across Summit Metro Parks, visit F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm, Liberty Park Nature Center and Summit Lake Nature Center, or join us for a free, naturalist-led program! Check out the Discover Nature and Educational Activities & Resources pages of our website for more.