April showers bring beautiful flowers

“April showers bring mud” proclaimed the bulletin board in a local school. What a great take on the time-worn phrase “April showers bring May flowers.” It’s true, April showers bring on the mud, but they also fuel a May wildflower show of breathtaking beauty and diversity. The forest floor explodes with a riot of colors, from whites and pinks to reds, yellows, purples and greens. Flowers come in all shapes and sizes. Some look like tiny bells. Others look like a tiny explosion of fireworks frozen in time.

The Audubon Center & Sanctuary will be celebrating the spring wildflowers this year with a series of classes every Wednesday night in May at 7 p.m., followed by a related field trip on Saturday at 1 p.m. The classes will feature everything from how to identify wildflowers to floral sex and reproduction. The field trips will visit some of the best, and often unrecognized, wildflower hot spots in the region. Classes and field trips will be led by Audubon naturalists as well as professors from Jamestown Community College and SUNY Fredonia.

The series will start on May 1, with the Wildflower ABC’s at 7 p.m. This class will teach you how to identify wildflowers using books and apps. The class will be taught by Jeff Tome, Senior Naturalist at Audubon and a dedicated wildflower hunter.

On Saturday, May 4, Jeff will take you to Anders Run Natural Area in the Cornplanter State Forest near Irvine, PA, to search out the flowers in the old growth forest there. This forest is home to a wide variety of flowers, some of which are hard to find elsewhere.

Audubon’s Program Director, Jennifer Schlick, will teach the next Wednesday night class, “The Art of Wildflower Photography” on May 8 at 7:00pm. Jennifer will show you some tips and tricks for getting the most our your wildflower photos, as well as some of the secrets she has used to get those incredible shots that have hung in local shows!

That class will be followed by a May 11 field trip to the Jamestown Community College’s (JCC) 100-Acre-Lot at 1:00pm. This small, suburban woodlot is filled to the brim with amazing wildflowers, if you know where to look. Jennifer will take you to all the flower hot spots, demonstrate some photography techniques and share some plant lore along the way.

On Wednesday, May 15, at 7:00pm the class will be about the race for the sun. Learn all about the wonders of wildflower biology, pollination, and floral sex with biology professor Becky Nystrom from JCC. Spring ephemeral flowers only bloom for a short while. Learn why and how these budding beauties blossom in a very short period in the spring, and be prepared to learn some of nature’s springtime secrets and surprises!

Fredonia biology professor Jon Titus will follow that class with an exclusive walk through Fredonia University’s College Lodge on Saturday, May 18 at 1:00pm. The College Lodge has a variety of spring ephemeral wildflowers such as Spring Beauty, trilliums, toothworts, Wild Leek, Bloodroot, Mayapple, trout lily and a number of other species and is a fantastic place for non-flowering plants as well.

The final class in the series is on wild edible plants, taught by naturalist Katie Finch on Wednesday May 22 at 7:00pm. She will walk you through some wild edible books to use and the care you need to take when dining wild, as well as show you some great wild edibles.

She will take participants to Bergman Park in Jamestown, NY, on Saturday, March 25, to search for some amazing edibles on the hidden trails and byways of this park.

The spring wildflower series costs just $90 for all eight classes and only $60 if you are a Friend of the Nature Center. Individual classes costs $14 or $10 for Friends of the Nature Center. A special grant through the Cornell Cooperative Extension helps pay for the Wild Edibles class. The wild edibles classes are only $7 or $5 for friends of the nature center. Registration and payment for the entire series is due on May 2. Registration for individual classes are due two days before the class.

Wildflowers open up new worlds. They sit still and allow people to identify them at leisure without darting away to hide under a rock or frolic in a treetop. They pose beautifully for photos. Some of them will even make a tasty snack after you identify and photograph it. Add into the mix the fascinating connections they have to the forest and the animals that live there and flowers become more than just forest bling, they become an essential part of a living forest that provide a service that the forest cannot do without.

Jeff Tome is Senior Naturalist at the Audubon Center and Sanctuary, where he has been working to identify and locate all the flowering plants.