This week marks one of those “sleeper” commemorations that have much greater implications than we realize at first glance. National Wildflower Week obviously celebrates the beauty of naturally occuring, native flowers. You don’t need to be a botanist or florist to appreciate this commemoration, either.
Because I live next to a river, wildflowers are a normal part of my daily life. Even though I see them each day, I never take them for granted. The various sizes and colors provide a cheerful backdrop for outdoor activities. The overlapping life-cycles of the plants mean that I will enjoy a continually changing view. Best of all, I don’t need to do anything to maintain this beauty. Yes, I do realize that I’m fortunate to have this natural bounty outside my back door.
If you own or rent a home that is not near a stand of wildflowers, it’s possible to enjoy them nearby, anyway. Many people enjoy growing them in their gardens. Because they are naturally adapted to your own area, they require less fussy care than other flowers. Most big-box hardware or home improvement stores sell them at very low cost. Just seed the area you want the flowers to grow; water them each day for a week or so to establish them; then let nature run her course. If I can grow them, anybody can.
One of the most important reasons to celebrate wildflowers is the need to increase public awareness about the vital part they play in the general ecosystems and how they figure in the production of our food. Wildflowers provide habitat for pollinator insect species like bees and butterflies.
Many old-growth stands of wildflowers have disappeared due to competition from invasive plant species (weeds), urban development and many modern agricultural practices. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service actively promotes wildflower planting on farms and ranches. More informed farmers now allow wildflower growth on unused portions of their land. They understand the need to fight the decline of wildflower populations because their pollinator insects are needed for many crops.
I also enjoy seeing wildflowers growing alongside the highways in the spring and summer months. The Nebraska Department of Roads, like highway departments elsewhere, re-establishes wildflower populations along hundreds of miles of roadway. Not only does this make for pleasant scenery, but mowing costs are much lower where the native plant species once again thrive. I love to see native varieties of daisies, sunflowers, and goldenrod along the highway right-of-way spaces.
If you have children, wildflowers are a great topic for learning opportunities and quality family time. Go for a walk at a nearby wildflower habitat area or visit a wildflower center or botanical garden. Encourage your children to sketch or take photos of the flowering plants.
As we enjoy wildflowers, many of us rededicate ourselves to wildlife conservation. Wildlife includes flora and fauna, all of it works together in an ecosystem. Wildflower appreciation helps us think about our personal environmental impacts. This awareness benefits not only us, but everyone else and all living things. Wildflower appreciation is not only pleasant; it’s the right thing to do.