by Teralene Foxx
Buttercups, dandelions, and other wildflowers symbolize beauty, peace, love, happiness, and the amazing intricacies of the world around us. Flowers are celebrated in music, bouquets, paintings, fabric, china, poetry, holidays and more. National Wildflower Week, May 2 to 8 this year, reminds us to take time to appreciate the importance of wildflowers.
Studies have shown that a colorful flower garden can alleviate our mental fatigue by relaxing and restoring our mind. Even a simple dandelion can be a delight. Wildflowers allow us to observe the marvelous complexities of life cycles, patterns in nature, and interactions between plants and animals.
So what is a wildflower? In simple terms it is a plant growing without cultivation. A dandelion can be called a wildflower. But if it is growing in a lawn, it becomes a weed, “an unloved wildflower.” Wildflowers are non-woody, soft-stemmed plants that bloom. Flower colors and shapes vary widely and can at times exceed the imagination. Plants that don’t have showy flowers are often pollinated by the wind and are less affectionately called “weeds.”
There are 18,000 to 20,000 wildflower species in the U.S., and hundreds of species are found here in the Jemez Mountains. Some plants begin blooming as early as March while others continue to bloom into November. To learn more about what is blooming, join PEEC’s wild plants interest group or use the flower nature guide.
What is the importance of wildflowers? Why should we care?
- Wildflowers can be drought and fire resistant. Some flowers can survive periods of little moisture. In a high desert environment such as the Jemez Mountains, drought resistant plants are important for water conservation.
- Flowering plants can help in the restoration of burned areas. After fire, flowers blooming against a blackened landscape give us hope that the ecosystem will recover. Ultimately, they help with erosion control.
- Flowers lure pollinators such as bees, butterflies, birds, and other insects. Without flowers, pollinators can become endangered. Declining Milkweed habitat as a result of agricultural practices is putting strain on Monarch butterfly populations. Luckily, people noticed, and there is a lot we can do to help.
- Birds love and depend on flower seeds and blossoms. It is a delight to see a goldfinch hanging from a giant sunflower or a hummingbird hovering over a bright red Indian paintbrush. Without flowers, some birds would disappear.
Each time you see a wildflower, marvel at the beauty, diversity, and importance of the plants that adorn our landscape.
Here are two upcoming events that can help you celebrate and appreciate wildflowers: Quilting Nature and the Beauty of Wildflowers with Katy Korkos and Terry Foxx on May 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Wildflower Walk with Chick Keller on May 16 at 5:30 p.m.
Here are some additional resources you may find useful: