March's lengthening days are not only a tonic for our winter blahs, but also the necessary ingredient for coaxing spring wildflowers into bloom. Earlier sunrises and later sunsets signal the start of the wildflower viewing season in Ohio.
Unlike garden bulbs and domestic perennials that respond to warm temperatures and moisture, wildflowers take their cues to bloom directly from the sun. As daylight hours increase, so do the variety and numbers of blooms.
As if celebrating the spring equinox, the snow trillium a three-petal posy surrounded by dark green leaves kicks off this festival of floral fireworks in the woodlands of southern Ohio.
Other March wildflowers such as harbinger-of-spring and hepatica begin showing their colors about the same time as snow trillium. "Harbingers" are members of the parsley family that grow only about three inches high and are frequently overlooked during woodland walks. Hepatica, on the other hand, feature showy three-part blooms on a slender stalk.
While none of the early March wildflowers bloom at length, the end of the month brings on "spring beauty" - a white and pink striped species that holds its blossoms for as long as three weeks along roadsides and in lawns.
By April, dozens of wildflower species are nodding their pretty heads in Ohio's fields and forests. Among the most prevalent and most distinctive are trout lilies. Named for their speckled leaves that resemble a trout's scales, these yellow and white lilies are common throughout the state.
Virginia bluebells with their trumpet-like flowers that turn from pink to blue as they mature, are among the most-common and most attractive Ohio wildflowers. They bloom in April and May in wet, wooded areas and along roadways and fencerows.
Look under an oak tree in almost any place around the state during April and May and you might find clusters of toothwort. This delicate white flowers grow in every county.
Wild violets also grow throughout the Buckeye State. While purplish blue is the common color, they are also found in yellow and white. Moist, open woods are their favorite habitat, although they are frequently found in suburban yards.
In early May, thousands of Lakeside daisies, Ohio's rarest wildflower, are in bloom at Lakeside Daisy State Nature Preserve on the Marblehead Peninsula in Ottawa County. The former quarry is one of only three places in the world where this endangered wildflower thrives.
Did you know Ohio has more than 2,300 wildflower species? And while some of the rarest and most endangered of these are tucked away in the safety of a state nature preserve, beautiful spring flowers can be enjoyed close to home in neighborhood parks and along country roadsides.
To see these spring beauties is a real treat, so leave them in the ground for everyone to enjoy.