A Wild hyacinth at Peck Ranch Conservation Area. (Photo by Candice Davis)
As a communicator (a media specialist, not a scientist), you won't find me poring over text books. I'm one of those people who absolutely loves a hike in the woods, finding wildflowers and learning about the world around me. But don't ask me to stand around a flower with a field guide. I want to keep moving and exploring.
I'm a communicator, and I love telling the stories of our natural world. Missouri is full of glades, sand prairies and woodlands that offer an unknown number of stories to be told. That often requires opening a field guide and remembering the information inside.
One of the most delicate stories is that of any wildflower. Learning to identify the wild beauties across our landscape can be tedious, and more than a flimsy memory like mine can handle if I try to remember too many of them at one time. My supervisor here at the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) appreciates all kinds of field guides; many of them are large enough to make a fabulous booster seat for a three-year old. At times, I'm required to open these cumbersome references, and I've now learned to appreciate the wealth of knowledge they hold on their often more than 500 pages.
To come by this appreciation, I accidentally incorporated an activity that was more my style -- photography. I find that if I leave my field guide in the truck and haul around my camera instead, I can capture the image of a wildflower and leave the learning for later. Since many people have different learning styles, finding what works for you is important. This is what works for me.
Wildflower photos are a wonderful addition to any office or home décor and their value is even higher if you've taken the photo yourself. I'm much more inclined to learn everything I can about a flower if I've hung its image on one of my walls. It would be terribly embarrassing to frame a photo of a flower and not be able to tell guests what flower it is, as well as any other interesting details.
For example, I took the photo above of a Wild hyacinth at Peck Ranch Conservation Area this time last year. When I was on the area last week, I recognized the flowers easily on the glade because I had taken the time to photograph the little beauties and post a photo in my office. I didn't post photos of all the flowers from that trip, just my favorites of the day. By spacing out the lessons and adding an activity, the flowers are now committed to memory.
After photographing the Wild hyacinth, l learned it is a member of the lily family. It's identified by its white to bluish-white or lavender color, sweet fragrance, and its 50 or more small flowers that grow on the stalk. The stalk can be up to two feet tall.
You can find Wild hyacinth in prairies, rocky slopes, glades, bluff ledges, low, rich upland to bottomland forests, roadsides and old fields. They are found nearly statewide, but are most common in the Ozarks. They're absent from the flatlands of the Bootheel, but Cape Girardeau and Bollinger Counties have plenty of suitable areas for them.
The most interesting fact I've found about the Wild hyacinth is that the edible bulbs of this plant were eaten by Native Americans. However, take your plant identification lessons further before you try eating a Wild hyacinth so you can tell the difference between this plant and its poisonous look-a-likes.
According to the MDC's Natural Events Calendar, there's a long list of wildflower blooms to look for this month:
|Wake robin||Bloodroot||Fire pink||White trillium|
|Spring beauty||Celandine poppy||Wild ginger||Virginia bluebells|
|Spiderwort||Wild hyacinth||Pussytoes||Wild sweet William|
|Bellwort||Shooting star||Jacob's ladder||Tickseed coreopsis|
|Rue anemone||Toothwort||Bird's-foot violet||Dutchman's breeches|
|Columbine||Wild geranium||Dogtooth violet||Shining blue star|
|Crested iris||Downy phlox||May apple|
Maybe you can photograph one or two and add to your nature knowledge as a result. We might not all be biologists, but we can all be conservationists.
More information on Wild hyacinth and many other wildflowers of Missouri can be found at www.mdc.mo.gov.