Spring Surprises in Missouri State Parks

Cabin fever got you down?

Shake the post-winter blahs and enjoy the spring warmup by taking a walk in the woods. You may find a few surprises along the trail of your choice.

“Ephemeral” means short-lived and spring ephemerals are tiny wildflowers that pop up amid the leaf litter when the first warming rays of sunshine hit the forest floor.

They’ll appear in late March, stick around through April, then disappear in May when the canopy leafs out and turns off the light.

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Bluebells and yellow celandine poppies decorate a bottomland forest along the Meramec River.

The woodland wildflowers in Missouri include spring beauties, trillium, harbinger of spring, Dutchman’s breeches, bluebells, celandine poppies and trout lily. They are mostly delicate shades of white, pink, blue and yellow – the gaudy oranges and reds come later in summer.

Here’s a list of a half dozen easy walks in state parks where finding these little jewels is like an Easter egg hunt.

Along the trails at Hawn State Park, guests can enjoy pink wild azaleas among other wildflowers.
Along the trails at Hawn State Park, guests can enjoy pink wild azaleas among other wildflowers.

Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County: The wildflowers will be in the bottomlands of the River Scene Trail along the Meramec River, with other species on the bluffs that look down on the river valley.

Washington State Park near De Soto: The 1000 Steps Trail climbs up and down a hillside on stone slabs laid down by a Civilian Conservation Corps crew in the 1930s. The wildflowers grow in the bottoms and along the mossy steps.

Ha Ha Tonka State Park at the Lake of the Ozarks: Wildflowers bloom throughout the park but are especially plentiful along the Spring Trail, which leads from the lake back to a spring that emerges from a water-filled cave at the base of a small bluff.

Rock Bridge Memorial State Park at Columbia: Shooting Star Trail in the Gans Creek Wild Area is named for the species of wildflower that blooms in the woodlands.

Prairie State Park at Mindenmines: The largest remnant of tallgrass prairie in Missouri, the park comes to life each spring with bouquets of yellow-star grass and the pinkish orange blooms of Indian paintbrush.

Hawn State Park near Ste. Genevieve: The park’s mosaic of hardwood and pine forests, along sandstone bluffs and sun-dappled streams, lights up with pink wild azaleas and yellow lady slipper orchids in late spring.

Happy hunting!

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