A Guide to Spring Wildflowers in Missouri

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Jacob's Ladder
Credit: Missouri Wildflowers Nursery
Credit: Missouri Wildflowers Nursery
Wild Geranium
Credit: Missouri Wildflowers Nursery
Wild Sweet William
Credit: Missouri Wildflowers Nursery

Spring has sprung!

After three months of winter, it seems like spring will never come – but it’s well worth the wait. It’s the best time to explore Missouri’s outdoors – especially in forests, where wildflowers flourish.

With the bluebird sky you’ve waited for all winter, Missouri’s state tree – the dogwood – in glorious bloom, and redbuds splashing color all over the woods, it’s tempting to spend your hike looking up. But, oh, the beauty you’ll miss!

Native Missouri Wildflowers

The earliest blossoms are called ephemerals – something that lasts for a very short time. Look closely to find them nestling near the woodland floor. Many early spring wildflowers are delicate shades of white: dogtooth violets, Dutchman’s breeches, spring beauty, white trillium and violets (which have white and blue varieties). There are also blues and purples: spiderwort, wild sweet William and Jacob’s ladders. Pinkish wild geraniums are an exciting find.

If you don’t know where to begin your spring wildflower walk, we have you covered. We asked experts with the Missouri Department of Conservation for their recommendations.

Where to Find Wildflowers

For ephemeral spring flowers, go browsing late March through May in these locations:

Central Missouri

Explore the forests of Rudolf Bennitt Conservation Area near Rucker, at the junction of Boone, Howard and Randolph counties.

Check out the forested ravines at Spring Creek Gap Conservation Area near Vichy in Maries County.

Visit Burnt Mill Cave Conservation Area near Climax Springs in Camden County for spring ephemerals in the woods.

Big Buffalo Creek Conservation Area in Benton and Morgan counties features an Ozark forest habitat perfect for spring wildflowers.

Northeast Missouri

Julian Steyermark Woods Conservation Area in Hannibal is rich with wildflowers and ferns.

Engelmann Woods Natural Area in Franklin County is great for celandine poppies, trillium, bellwort, blue and yellow violets in April and early May.

Busch Conservation Area Fallen Oak Trail in St. Charles County features impressive stands of Dutchman’s breeches, bloodroot and trout lily in April.

Explore the woodlands at Union Ridge Conservation Area near Kirksville at the junction of Adair, Putnam and Sullivan counties.

Northwest Missouri

For the Kansas City metro area, Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in Blue Springs provides forest and woodland trails showcasing some of the earliest spring wildflowers and emerging ferns.

Bluffwoods Conservation Area near St. Joseph offers woodlands filled with early-spring flowers like May apples and later-spring orchids.

Southeast Missouri

Enjoy flowering dogwoods, redbuds and woodland wildflowers in spring at Millstream Gardens in Madison County between Arcadia and Fredericktown.

The forests of Amidon Memorial Conservation Area in Bollinger and Madison counties are a great place to look for spring wildflowers.

Twin Pines Conservation Education Center near Winona and the Cape Girardeau Nature Center have pristine native wildflower gardens and offer native plant programs during spring and summer.

Also, check out the Mark Twain National Forest, any nearby Missouri state parks, along the banks of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and anywhere off the beaten path in your local parks.

Lace up your boots. It’s time to go for a spring walk in the woods … and enjoy Mother Nature’s show.

For more information on Missouri wildflower identification visit, the Missouri Department of Conservation‘s Field Guide.