Last updated: March 29, 2023
Native spring wildflowers are often called “spring ephemerals” because they appear for such a short time. They must grow and reproduce while temperatures are warm and sunlight can reach the forest floor.
The first to arrive is the skunk cabbage which prefers soggy areas fed by groundwater. Starting in mid-February, look for them near the Ira Trailhead at Beaver Marsh and along the Haskell Run Trail near the Ledges. Their fleshy flowers produce enough heat for them to survive the last of winter.
The next early wildflowers may begin appearing at the end of March, once snow is no longer on the ground. By mid-April, a variety are up and attracting insects for pollination. The blooming frenzy continues through mid-May, until the trees leaf out and cast too much shade. The exact timing of nature’s show varies year-to-year with Northeast Ohio’s notoriously unpredictable weather. It is also impacted by climate change. Once things start, the sequence of wildflowers is fairly predictable.
Coltsfoot (a nonnative which resembles a dandelion), harbinger-of-spring, and spring beauty are often the first bloomers. They are joined shortly by cut-leaved toothwort and bloodroot. Soon large-flowered trillium overshadows them, and squirrel corn and Dutchman’s breeches arrive. Jack-in-the-pulpit begins hiding in his flower, while wild geranium nods nearby. The season’s showstopper is Virginia bluebells which forms a blue carpet along certain streams.
The Stanford Trail blooms early, starting with daffodils which are lovely but nonnative. Bloodroot, trillium, and toothwort pop up a bit later. Look for them closer to the Brandywine Gorge Loop.
The Brandywine Gorge Loop is lovely year-round, but spring showcases a variety of flowers. You may find Dutchman’s breeches, various types of trillium, and mayapples. In mid-spring, we also recommend the 0.8-mile Daffodil Trail in Furnace Run Metro Park and the 1.9-mile Spring Hollow Trail in Hampton Hills Metro Park.
Starting in late April, people flock to the Furnace Run Trail near Everett Covered Bridge to see the Virginia bluebells. Another popular spot is the Hemlock Creek Picnic Area at Bedford Reservation.
To get away from the late-season crowds, consider the Plateau Trail at Oak Hill Trailhead. In May, Jack-in-the-pulpit and wild geranium dot the woodlands.
Here are our ranger tips for wildflower viewing:
- Some flowers do not open or open fully on rainy or overcast days. Pick a sunny day to look for wildflowers.
- Early morning and late afternoon are the best times for wildflower photography. The less wind the better.
- Stay on the trail.
- Keep pets on a six-foot leash and on the trail.
- Above all, do not pick or trample the flowers. Some take years to bloom.
Leashed pets are permitted on park trails. Leashes must be 6 feet long or less.
Late March to mid-May
Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to photograph spring wildflowers.
The recommended trails are unpaved and often muddy in spring. The Stanford, Brandywine Falls, and Ledges areas have steep hills. The Plateau Trail has rolling hills. The section of Furnace Run Trail by Everett Covered Bridge is flat, as is the Towpath Trail at Beaver Marsh. More detailed information is on our hiking page.
Service and comfort animals which follow our behavioral guidelines are welcome on park trails.