Every year it seems that spring was a long time coming – but it's worth the wait. In fact, it's the best time to explore Missouri's outdoors – especially her 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!
The earliest blossoms are called ephemerals – something that lasts for a very short time – so you'll need to 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 come in both white and blue varieties). There are the blues and purples: spiderwort, wild sweet William and Jacob's ladders. Pinkish wild geraniums are a find.
But in case you don't know where to begin your spring wildflower walk, we have you covered. We turned to the experts at the Missouri Department of Conservation to get their recommendations.
For ephemeral spring flowers, go browsing late March through May in these locations:
For early spring blooms, 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.
Burnt Mill Cave Conservation Area near Climax Springs in Camden County offers spring ephemerals in the woods.
Big Buffalo Creek Conservation Area in Benton and Morgan counties features Ozark forest habitat perfect for spring wildflowers.
Steyermark Woods Conservation Area in Hannibal in Marion County is rich with wildflowers and ferns.
Check along the creek at Rocky Hollow Natural Area near Holliday in Monroe County for flowers such as trout lily and bellwort.
Engelmann Woods Natural Area, Franklin County is great for early spring celandine poppies, trillium, bellwort, blue and yellow violets in April and early May.
Busch Conservation Area Fallen Oak Trail in St. Charles County features nice stands of Dutchman's breeches, bloodroot and trout lily in April.
Explore the woodlands at Union Ridge Conservation Area near Kirksville at junction of Adair, Putnam, and Sullivan counties.
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 Hannibal offers woodlands filled with early-spring flowers like May apples as well as later-spring orchids.
Enjoy the flowering dogwoods, redbuds and woodland wildflowers in spring at Millstream Gardens in Madison County between Arcadia and Fredericktown.
The forests of Amidon Memorial CA in Bollinger and Madison counties are a great place to look for spring wildflowers.
Lace up your boots. It's time to go for a walk in the woods ... and enjoy Mother Nature's show.