Thursday, May 14, 2015

Simple guidelines to follow when spotting wildflowers on a day hike

Anenome wildflower. Photo courtesy of Photoree.
Spotting wildflowers is one of the great pleasures of a day hike. Their beauty often evokes our sense of curiosity and desire to more closely appreciate them. Unfortunately, our impulses usually are not for the better.

When hiking, always follow some simple guidelines to ensure wildflowers flourish so that others –and you yourself – may enjoy them in years to come.

First, always follow the dictum of keep your toes on the trail. Don’t step on flowers, even though must seemingly spring back. The reality is their stems break or the petals and leaves are damaged by being crushed and pushed downward. In addition, don’t disturb the ground around wildflowers. Many depend on the soil structure for their survival, and our footsteps either will make the dirt more compact or erode away needed cover.

Secondly, don't clip them. While it’s tempting to, especially with so many around, this actually can kill some flowers. The result of constant picking then is an ever decreasing population with each passing year, which also negatively effects pollinators. In addition, picking a flower may be illegal, especially on public property. Even if you don’t get caught, you're often wasting your time by picking them. Most wildflowers are fragile and so won't make it back home without losing their petals, and most will quickly wilt.

Finally, don’t remove wildflowers. Some people believe that digging up the entire flowering plant is a way around the negative impacts of clipping blossoms. The reality is that few wildflowers survive transplanting, and in the process of digging up a plant, the area where they grow has been damaged and so may not be conducive for other of that flower’s species to grow there.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.