After a cool, wet spring, it finally feels like May; wildflowers are blooming everywhere in the Ozarks.
Having had the wonderful opportunity of being a part of the Meramec Hills Chapter Master Naturalists’ Class of 2013 graduation ceremony this past week at the Bray Conservation Area, I enjoyed walking the grounds admiring the red buckeyes, long-bracted wild indigo and wild sweet william in full bloom amidst the oak forest and spring fed pond.
As I write this article, the air is thick with the sweet scent of black locust blossoms. There are so many wildflowers in bloom; it has been hard to choose which ones to cover in this issue. Nonetheless, I settled on wild bergamot, dwarf larkspur, and Ohio spiderwort.
Wild Bergamot (Monarda bradburiana):
Of all the flowers blooming right now, wild bergamot is one of my favorites. Home along wooded slopes, glades and savannas of the Ozarks, this 1 to 2-foot tall plant is truly a hummingbird and native pollinator magnet.
It is a perfect plant to attract native pollinators to your vegetable garden. Tubular flower petals create a ring around the flower head and are typically covered with rose spots.
Wild bergamot prefers dry light shady locations with proper air circulation. In growing different monarda species, native and cultivated in my garden, powdery mildew has been the most troublesome issue in the past when growing these plants.
Therefore giving monarda species, proper space to grow and airflow as well as limiting overhead watering are good ways to help prevent powdery mildew from attacking your plants.
If you have a dry part shade location at your home and would like to attract native pollinators to your vegetable gardens nearby, wild bergamot or other monarda species and cultivars are a great choice.
Dwarf Larkspur (Delphinium tricorne):
Dwarf larkspur is truly a gem of the forest floor; it’s uniquely shaped blooms dot the forest in April and May.
Depending on where you are hiking in the Ozarks, the flower of the dwarf larkspur can range in a variety of colors.
I have seen populations deep in the Ozark highland that have had a pale, almost white, faded denim blue flower to populations in St. Louis County that are a deep amethyst.
Another wildflower commonly available at wildflower nurseries throughout the state, it prefers average to moist soil but is more tricky to grow successfully in a home garden then others. I personally prefer to simply admire this wildflower in its native habitat.
Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis):
One of my favorite wildflowers to take pictures of, Ohio spiderwort’s deep blue flowers rise up to 3 feet above the grass covered open woodland slopes in the Ozarks.
Page 2 of 2 - Being relatively pest- and disease-free, Ohio spiderwort is easy to grow in our region because it tolerates dry rocky soil.
It is best planted in the back of a full sun naturalized pollinator garden, where it can be highlighted in mid-spring when it is most showy and blended into the surrounding landscape by midsummer.
Ohio spiderwort is available at wildflower nurseries in Missouri, but there are also many hybrid cultivated varieties of spiderwort available at nurseries and greenhouses, referred to collectively as the Andersoniana group.
These include beautiful cultivars with yellow foliage such as ‘Sweet Kate’ and others that like more moisture and have deep purple flowers such as ‘Concord Grape.’
Next time you are driving through the gorgeous Ozark countryside or hiking a woodland trail in May, stop for a moment to appreciate the unique wildflowers which are in bloom this time of year.