Wild About Flowers: National Wildflower Week

May 3, 2021 – Kayla Thompson, Adult Services Coordinator

April showers bring May flowers…well, May is here and everything is blooming and has been blooming for a while. Winter is beautiful in its own way, but for me, the only thing that rivals a beautiful fall day is a beautiful spring one! The sun is bright, shining, and warm and the flowers and plant life are usually thriving and brightening the world around us by now!

So, in celebration of this time of year, I am going to talk a little bit about National Wildflower Week (which is May 3rd-9th) and some of Missouri’s beautiful wildflowers that are blooming this time of year!

According to Wildflower.org, National Wildflower Week was created in 1987 in order to celebrate the importance of wildflowers and their beauty across the United States. Though wildflower isn’t a scientific term, it usually refers to the types of flowering plants that are, well, wild and non-woody. Types of wildflowers that come to mind are coneflowers, sunflowers, black-eyed Susans, etc. They can be just as lovely as anything grown in our local gardens and are a beauty to behold during leisurely drives.

Though a bit old, the Missouri Department of Conservation has an article on their website that lists some of Missouri’s more popular wildflowers that bloom during the spring. Below are some of my favorites that were listed:

Smooth beard-tongue (Penstemon digitalis)
These white flower clusters begin blooming in May and continue to blossom well into July. They can be found in prairies and fields as well as moist woodlands and roadsides throughout Missouri. They need wet soil and at least partial shade and can grow to be up to about four feet tall.

Missouri primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa)
Also known as the glade lily, these beautiful flowers (typically yellow in color but can also be found in pretty delicate pinks) are found in Missouri glades as well as bluffs and other rocky areas usually during the months of May through August. Blossoms tend to open during late afternoons or evenings and are typically pollinated during the night by nocturnal bugs and animals (typically it is moths that pollinate these blooms).

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
A relative of the coneflower by the name of Black-eyed Susans, this purple plant is very similar to its sister plant though much more showy. These flowers usually bloom during the months of May through October, though they tend to blossom more fully during the summer months and are popular with many butterfly species. These plants can be found in moist open woodland areas and are popular for cultivation usually due to their pretty purple flowers. A relative of the purple coneflower, the pale purple coneflower, shares many of the attributes as the purple except that it can usually withstand drier soil.

Honorable mention: Missouri coneflower (Rudbeckia missouriensis)
This one gets an honorable mention, because while it is a very popular wildflower in Missouri, for this blog post I tried to stick with ones that blossomed in May. The Missouri coneflower, also known as the black-eyed Susan, flowers during the months of June through October and typically grows throughout the Ozarks in rocky barren areas. It can survive in gardens but needs well-drained soil. These plants can surprisingly grow to be about 2 feet in height.

This list is not a full list of the many wildflowers either native to Missouri or that happen to have migrated here and now call Missouri home. There are many more beautiful and interesting editions on the Missouri Conservation website and many more than that as well. Wildflowers are very important parts of all the many diverse ecosystems around Missouri and many function as homes, food, etc. for much of the wildlife in the area. Missouri’s ecosystems depend on the wildflowers that grow here. I don’t know about everyone else, but it provides much food for thought for me when I am mowing the lawn, or digging up “weeds,” or taking a stroll down the country roads and streets around my home. There is beauty everywhere if we just take the time to look and appreciate. What wildflowers are your favorites? Do you have any? Would you like to know more about them? The Library is a great place to start! Happy Spring!

Books about Missouri Wildflowers:
The Secrets of Wildflowers: A Delightful Feast of Little-Known Facts, Folklore, and History by Jack Sanders (Print, Nonfiction 582.13 SAN)
Wildflowers of North America: A Guide to Field Identification by Frank D. Venning (Print, Nonfiction 582.13 VEN)
Missouri Wildflowers: A Field Guide to Wildflowers of Missouri and Adjacent Areas by Edgar Denison (Print, Nonfiction 582.13 DEN)
Spring Flora of Missouri by Julian Steyermark (Print, Nonfiction 582.977 STE)
The Wild Flowers Book by Eliska Tomanova (Print, Nonfiction 635.9 TOM)
Wild Flowers of the United States by Harold William Rickett (Print, Nonfiction 582.13 RIC)
A Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of North America by Joan Barker (Print, Nonfiction 582.13 BAR)
100 Plants to Feed the Bees: Provide a Healthy Habitat to Help Pollinators Thrive by Xerces Society (Print, Nonfiction 571.864 XER)

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