April 13 2020

State celebrates first Ohio Native Plant Month

April is the state’s inaugural Ohio Native Plant Month, and Five Rivers MetroParks invites you to celebrate by exploring these beautiful and important blooms, shrubs and trees.

Native plants are adapted to the environment in which they grow, making them perfect for food and shelter for local wildlife. Many native plants also are important to pollinators — animals and insects that cause plants to create fruit or seed — which is integral to both animals and people. Additionally, native plants help clean and filter water and air.

From a landscaping perspective, native plants are a beautiful addition to your greenspace and require less care, saving you time and money.

“Native plants aren’t care-free, but once they are acclimated and get through the first few years, they require minimal care,” said Meredith Cobb, MetroParks conservation supervisor.

Bloodroot. Photo courtesy of Jason Sullivan.

According to Cobb, April is a great time to search for spring ephemerals, such as bluebells and trillium. These flowers, also known as woodland wildflowers, sprout because they benefit from all the sunlight that pours in from the leafless trees. Bloodroot is one of Cobb’s favorites, as its leaves curl up to protect its petals during the cooler evenings — an adaptation to Ohio’s spring climate.

WHERE TO FIND WILDFLOWERS

Spring ephemerals can be found in many natural spaces. Download The Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Spring Wildflowers of Ohio Field Guide, then head to your back yard or local greenspace to see what’s in bloom.

If your household needs a what’s-in-bloom break in a MetroPark, Cobb suggests the following:

Be sure to plan ahead for your visit to prepare for closures, limited parking and other changes currently in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Of course, flowers aren’t the only thing blooming. Native trees and shrubs are budding as well. Cobb suggests walking from Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark to Island MetroPark to see all the red buds and other trees along the city of Dayton’s greenspace DeWeese Parkway.

Five Rivers MetroParks staff and volunteers planted trees along the Stillwater River in DeWeese Parkway as part of MetroParks’ regional reforestation efforts. A conservation agency, MetroParks propagates thousands of trees and shrubs every year at Cox Arboretum MetroPark’s Barbara Cox Center for Sustainable Horticulture. Seedlings are then planted in parks and greenspaces throughout Montgomery County.

BRING NATIVE BEAUTY TO YOUR BACK YARD

Milkweed. Photo courtesy of Jason Sullivan.

Adding native plants to your back yard benefits the environment while beautifying your greenspace. When selecting plants to incorporate into your landscape, Cobb suggests a mix of native trees, shrubs and flowers, such as:

  • Oak trees: Many insects use their leaves, and oaks provide acorns to feed squirrels.
  • Viburnum: This flowering shrub provides food to insects and pollinators and produces berries for birds.
  • Milkweed: This perennial is the only wildflower on which monarch butterflies lay their eggs. Monarchs, which are dwindling, and other butterflies are important pollinators that help sustain our environment.

Pawpaw trees and purple cone flower are also great options, Cobb said. Of course, your native plant choices will be determined by the type of soil in your yard and the amount of sunlight it receives.

For some native plant inspiration, mark your calendar for early July when Huffman Prairie — and other local prairies across the region — will be bustling with wildlife and bursting with an array of beautiful blooms.

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