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Road Trips: Spring Wildflowers

Martha Stewart Living, March 2003

Explore the ever-changing landscape of spring with a fresh eye when you learn to identify plants blooming along roads and on hillsides across the country. Peak season varies by locale and climate. These organizations showcase plants native to their regions and can direct you to the best places and times to see blooms. Many also offer classes and walks to help you learn more about identifying and cultivating local wildflowers.

Get 21 Flower-Arranging Ideas

West Coast
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Mojave Desert State Parks
15101 Lancaster Road
Lancaster, CA
Enjoy a drive or hike (along seven miles of trails) through acres of poppies. Call the hotline (661-724-1180) to check conditions; the visitors' center is staffed from mid-March to mid-May.

Berry Botanic Garden
11505 Southwest Summerville Avenue
Portland, OR
This collection includes native, rare, and endangered Pacific Northwest plants and has the West Coast's largest public rock garden. The website's virtual tour of the garden offers pictures of its Native Plant Trail.

Joshua Tree National Park Oasis of Mara Visitor Center
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA
During peak spring season, the park posts bulletins at the three main visitors' centers for nearby wildflower hot spots and arranges ranger-led walks. Call ahead or check the website for a complete schedule.

National Tropical Botanical Garden
Kauai Island
This organization administers four gardens in Hawaii and one in Florida. One of the properties on Kauai, the McBride Garden in Lawai Valley, covers 252 acres with an extensive collection of rare Hawaiian flowers and plants.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
2021 North Kinney Road
Tucson, AZ
The website's "Desert in Bloom" and the hotline (520-883-1380, ext. 320) give the latest wildflower forecast. In addition to a rock garden and cactus displays, the museum includes a zoo.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
4801 La Crosse Avenue
Austin, TX
Visitors will find a wealth of outdoor display gardens, in addition to well-labeled native-plant trails. Children enjoy exploring the center's system of cisterns and aqueducts, which are designed to demonstrate water conservation.

The Arboretum
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1207 Seminole Highway
Madison, WI
Keep in mind that prairie blooms peak in summer rather than spring. This collection includes more than 300 species of grasses and wildflowers that once dominated the plains. More than 20 miles of trails lead through 1,200 acres; the visitors' center offers an informative self-guided tour of woodland wildflowers.

Nebraska Statewide Arboretum
University of Nebraska
P.O. Box 830715
Lincoln, NE
This consortium promotes the prairie's ecology and biodiversity. Click on the "Nebraska FloraSearch" feature to identify Great Plains wildflowers; type in bloom color, location, and height, and a list of candidates pops up. Call to find out about tall-grass prairie displays.

East Coast
Bartholomew's Cobble
Ashley Falls, MA
Call the visitors' center to get schedules for nature walks at this National Natural Landmark, a small peak with an old-growth forest, an unusual variety of ferns, and woodland wildflowers.

Fairchild Tropical Garden
10901 Old Cutler Road
Coral Gables, FL
Twenty minutes from Miami International Airport, Fairchild presents native plants of the Florida Keys and the Everglades. At the Keys coastal habitat section, you'll see yellowtop (Flaveria linearis), a member of the aster family, and marsh pink (Sabatia grandiflora), as well as trees and shrubs that attract migrating birds. The garden organizes guided wildflower walks on Long Pine Key in Everglades National Park during the spring. The website lists classes.

Garden in the Woods
New England Wild Flower Society
180 Hemenway Road
Framingham, MA
The 45-acre garden has a woodland native-plant trail with more than two hundred rare and endangered species, as well as display gardens and a large retail nursery with a wide selection of native plants for sale.

North Carolina Arboretum
100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way
Asheville, NC
Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, this arboretum provides a solid introduction to area habitats, from valleys to woodlands, and directs viewers to prime viewing spots. The website's "What's in Bloom?" page is updated throughout the spring.

National Organizations
Center for Plant Conservation
P.O. Box 299
Saint Louis, MO
Dedicated to fostering native plants around the country, the center maintains a national network of botanical gardens and arboretums.

Nature Conservancy
4245 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 100
Arlington, VA
This spring, the Nature Conservancy's website is launching an area that will cover wildflowers. It will list the preserves throughout the United States that have wildflower displays.


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