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odnr naturalist kneeling and pointing out wildflowers at ohio state park in spring

Finding Ohio's Spring Wildflowers

ODNR Naturalist Jenny Richards

Finding Ohio's Spring Wildflowers

By Anietra Hamper

Posted On: Mar 8, 2023

The spring wildflower season in Ohio is a limited time offering. Buds emerge in southern Ohio first - usually beginning in early April and for northern Ohio in late April/early May. The season ends when leaves are fully out on the trees, shading the delicate wildflowers from sunlight that gives them their burst of spectacular colors.

skunk cabbage surrounded by leaves at an ohio state nature preserve in spring
Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) 

And while it's not the most aesthetic or aromatic flowering plants, the skunk cabbage is one the first wildflowers to bloom in Ohio. Beginning in February, you can spy these purple-spotted plants, which are known to come up even when there's still snow and ice on the ground. That's probably because they're also thermogenic -- meaning they make enough heat to melt away surrounding snow and ice. 

Skunk cabbages are more common around northeast Ohio. Head over to Cedar Bog State Nature Preserve in Urbana or Christmas Rocks State Nature Preserve in Lancaster; both are known for being home to the notorious flowering plant.

Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve near Yellow Springs makes for a great hike any time of the year. But in the Spring, it's one of the prime locations to enjoy an abundance of Ohio's wildflowers. Take advantage of the opportunity to see the unique wildflowers in the Gorge that are only present for a few weeks each year.

Snow trillium wildflower at Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve in Ohio
Snow trillium (Trillium nivale) 

These state nature preserves, like Cilfton Gorge, are where you have the best opportunity to enjoy a variety of wildflowers, some of which are very rare. The snow trillium and the lakeside daisy are two of the rarest finds in Ohio.

The snow trillium is related to the white trillium, and it only grows in central and west central Ohio. The extremely rare lakeside daisy only grows on bare limestone, which is found in the northern part of the state near Lakeside.

lakeside daisy at ohio state nature preserve in spring
Lakeside daisy (Tetraneuris herbacea)

The lakeside daisy, which resembles a dandelion, grows in specific places (like the Marblehead peninsula and Kellys Island) where there are abandoned limestone quarries. Your best chance to see them in bloom is around Mother's Day.

Marsh marigold wildflower at Eagle Creek State Nature Preserve in Garrettsville Ohio during spring
Marsh-marigold (Caltha palustris).

Other flowers you can spot at Clifton Gorge are Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis), Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), Dutchmen's-breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), and Marsh-marigold - which can also be found at Eagle Creek State Nature Preserve in Garrettsville.

"The reason we have wildflowers in State Nature Preserves is because those are areas that have been left alone for a long time. Wildflowers are sensitive flowers," said Thomas Arbour with the Ohio Division of Natural Resources (ODNR).

ODNR releases a wildflower report with weekly updates on the wildflowers in bloom at State Parks and State Nature Preserves. It's a great way to plan your weekend hikes around the locations of peak blooms, which will change regularly during the season. 

prairie ironweed purple wildflowers with yellow wildflowers in field at an ohio state park in spring
Prairie Ironweed (Vernonia fascuculata)  

Here are some of the best locations around Ohio to see spring wildflowers:

The search for Ohio's wildflowers is a fun addition to your hike. With the wildflowers peaking in April, you can hit a new location every week and enjoy different species and scenery every time.

For more natureflowers this #SpringinOhio, check out Ohio.org

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