Kentucky State Parks are one the best places to find native spring wildflowers. Often called ephemerals, because they bloom for such a short time, these fleeting beauties can be found along many of our 300 miles of trails across the state.
Early March welcomes the first blossoms of the harbinger of spring, also known as salt and pepper, marking the beginning of the spring wildflower season.
As March progresses, the appearance of bloodroot, with a beautiful white bloom, grows all across Kentucky. The Licking River Trail at Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park and the Mary Ingles Trail at Yatesville Lake State Park are excellent places to start. The Savannah Loop Trail at Blue Licks in later April and May will also show off the bold colors of purple larkspur, ragwort, and Eastern columbine (pic).
With its lavender to white colored bloom, the cut-leaf toothwort is a common woodland wildflower found in all areas of Kentucky. Both yellow and white trout lilies (pic), referring to the speckling on the leaves, as it resembles a trout, are lovers of calcareous soils and are found in central and western Kentucky such as the Boom Ridge Trail at Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park and the Lake Trail at Green River Lake State Park.
As the warmer months of April and May arrives, so do the native orchids of Kentucky. Pink and yellow lady’s slippers, crane-fly orchid, showy orchid, and yellow fringed orchids (pic) burst with dazzling colors! Orchids prefer the more sandy moist soils of eastern Kentucky. You can find these rare gems at Pine Mountain State Resort Park, Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Greenbo Lake State Resort Park, Carter Caves State Resort Park and Natural Bridge State Resort Park.
For a flash of blue, look for the Virginia bluebells to be in bloom along the Lake Trail at Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park and along the Tygarts Creek at Carter Caves State Resort Park.
Trilliums, named because everything they have comes in threes; three leaves, three green sepals beneath three petals. Trilliums come in several varieties such as toadshades and wakerobins. The blossoms vary in color, the more common colors are: white (pic), pink, maroon, and yellow, but don’t be surprised to find multi colored blossoms! Trilliums are commonly found across the state in April and May.
Mayapples look like little green umbrellas as they poke up into the sunshine. Mayapples (pic) with one large leaf is a male, while two leaves indicate a female plant that can bear fruit. They will bear a dangling "apple" later in the spring, just at the right height for box turtles to eat.
For a true wildflower adventure, visit Kentucky State Parks!
Just a reminder while visiting our Kentucky State Parks this spring, all of the wonderful spring wildflowers you see are protected. Please do not pick them or walk off-trail to find them, and always practice outdoor ethics principles of Leave No Trace. More information can be found at LNT.org.