Discover the amazing diversity of Ohio wildflowers throughout the seasons
Ohio has some of the most interesting and beautiful wildflowers. Some are prolific and can grow anywhere while others are rare, growing only in specific soils and habitats. Our work to protect the lands and waters of Ohio includes protecting the diverse plant communities that are native to our state. This list is just a sample of what you can find when visiting our preserves throughout the year across Ohio.
Special note: We encourage everyone to learn about and observe these plants, but to never harvest them from their habitats. There are many reputable native plant nurseries where you can find sustainably sourced plants.
Spring-Blooming Ohio Wildflowers
Pepper and Salt
As one of the earliest spring wildflowers, pepper and salt is also known as harbinger of spring. Easy to overlook due to its small size, pepper and salt boasts beautiful white flowers with deep pink to red anthers that grow in an umbel on a single purplish stem. You can find this beauty at our Edge of Appalachia Preserve, but look closely, or you might miss it!
Bloom time: February through early April
Endangered in Ohio, painted trillium is a treat for wildflower enthusiasts. The flower is a long-lived woodland perennial that makes its home in shaded acidic soils of deciduous forests. Large three-petaled white flowers bloom on top of a whorl of three large leaves. Painted trillium can be easily distinguished from other trillium species by the splash of deep pink at its center. Today, TNC’s Morgan Swamp Preserve in Ashtabula County boasts the largest population of the rare wildflower in the state.
Bloom time: April to May
Jack-in-the-pulpit is a shade-loving wildflower that thrives in moist, deciduous woodlands and floodplains. Its unusual, hooded flower is green with deep brownish purple stripes and cylindrical in shape. Leaves are divided into three leaflets and grow on separate stalks from the flower. Spring blooms are followed by a cluster of bright red berries that appear in late summer.
Bloom time: April to June
Wild columbine is a showy woodland perennial that produces blooms reminiscent of a sunset. Downward facing flowers bloom on stalks that grow 1-3 feet tall. Growing from the base of the stem, lobed leaves are fern-like and grouped in threes. Wild columbine attracts a variety of pollinators including bumblebees and ruby-throated hummingbirds. Thriving in woodlands and rocky slopes, you can find wild columbine at some of our preserves including the Cedar Falls Preserve in Adams County.
Bloom time: May through June
Each spring, the oak savannas of our Kitty Todd Nature Preserve light up with the brilliant blue-purple spikes of wild blue lupine flowers. Lupine thrives in the sandy soils of the Oak Openings region of northwest Ohio. While the blooms attract visitors from all over the region, they also attract pollinators, including the endangered Karner blue butterfly, whose caterpillar relies on lupine as its only host plant.
Bloom time: mid-May through early June
Yellow Lady’s Slipper
So named for the slipper-like appearance of its bright yellow blooms, yellow lady’s slipper is a perennial orchid that grows in a variety of habitats from moist shady woodlands to open meadows and along streams. Its inflated yellow petal (the slipper) is flanked by two twisted petals and an upright sepal that can range from greenish-yellow to purplish-brown. At maturity, plants bear only a flower or two and three to six leaves on its stem.
Bloom time: May through early June
Though common, bloodroot is a welcome sign of spring in Ohio as one of the earliest spring blooms. Bloodroot is a common woodland perennial with showy, white flowers that boast numerous petals. Blooms are highly ephemeral, often lasting just a few days. Each stem is cloaked with a single deeply veined and lobed leaf which unfurls as flowers bloom. While flowers do not produce nectar, bloodroot attracts insects—like mining bees—with nutritious pollen.
Bloom time: mid-March to late April
Blooming from spring to early summer, wild geranium is a perennial wildflower that thrives in moist shady woodlands. Leaves are palmately lobed and five-petaled flowers range in color from rose-pink to lavender, with some boasting dark purple or white blooms. Wild geranium attracts a variety of early pollinators including ground-nesting bees, bumblebees and hoverflies.
Bloom time: April through June
With a name like skunk cabbage, you know the plant has to be special. Perhaps best known for its pungent odor and large leaves that decorate wet woodland and wetland habitats, skunk cabbage is a flowering perennial that is one of the earliest plants to emerge in the spring. With the ability to produce its own heat, skunk cabbage can emerge even when the ground is still frozen and snow and ice surround the bloom. The skunk cabbage flower is as unusual as its odor, with a mottled maroon hoodlike spathe that surrounds the knob-like flower structure (called a “spadix”) where the small yellow petal-less flowers grow. You can find skunk cabbage at many of our preserves including Big Darby Creek Headwaters Nature Preserve.
Bloom time: February through April
Mayapples are best known for their large, drooping umbrella-like leaves, but peak underneath and you might be surprised to discover a beautiful white flower. Mayapples grow in open deciduous forests and along shady riverbanks. Leaves are palmately compound and can grow up to 12” in diameter. Some stems bear just one leaf while others bear two. Flowers appear only on stems with two leaves, growing in the axil. You can find mayapple in the woodlands of many of our open preserves.
Bloom time: April – June
Summer-Blooming Ohio Wildflowers
Milkweeds of Ohio
Ohio is home to 13 native species of milkweed, found everywhere from shaded forests to prairies to wetlands. These summer bloomers have variety of flower colors, from vibrant orange to muted green. Endangered monarch butterflies depend on all milkweed species for their life cycle, making these plants crucial throughout Ohio.
American Water Lotus
This native lotus is the largest wildflower in Ohio. The fragrant flowers can grow up to 10” across and the perfectly round leaves can reach up to 3’ in diameter. They provide important habitat for young fish to hide from predators (and provide predators a place to search). Cone shaped seed heads provide food for ducks and other water fowl and migratory birds. Plants are rooted into the ground and spread by rhizomes rather than floating on the water like some other aquatic plants. Beaver and muskrats use the rhizomes for a food source. You’ll find these in shallow inlets of ponds and lakes across Ohio. One place to see them is our Great Egret Marsh Preserve where we are preserving and restoring wetland habitats. View these amazing plants from the overlook along the trail or better yet, grab your kayak and put in at the preserve to float among the flowers.
Bloom time: July to September
Also known as gay feathers, blazing stars are among the most striking summer wildflowers in Ohio prairies. There are about seven species of Liatris that call Ohio home, but only four of them occur around TNC Ohio preserves. Blazing stars are prairie dwellers and important food source for many animals and pollinators.
The narrow leaves of this small plant make it look like a grass, but it is actually a member of the iris family. The adorably sweet flowers grow about ½” across. It’s one of the earlier summer-blooming plants that attracts pollinators, mostly small bees. This species can be found all across Ohio in meadows and prairies. You might find these at our Edge of Appalachia Preserve System or Kitty Todd Preserve.
Bloom time: May to early July
Spotted Joe Pye Weed
Averaging six to seven feet tall, spotted Joe Pye weed is a standout in its wetland habitats. It gets its common name from its stem, which can be green purple spots. In late summer, spotted Joe Pye weed produces flat rose-purple flower heads with up to 22 individual florets. These blooms are irresistable to native butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. Once the flowers fade, its seedheads will persist into winter, helping to feed birds and other wildlife. Look for spotted Joe Pye weed in sunny wetland areas such as the Big Darby Headwaters Preserve.
Bloom time: July through August
Blue Flag Iris
Blue flag irises are clump-forming, spreading by underground rhizomes. As such, you can often find these flowers growing in large groups. They tolerate a variety of soil types, but you’ll only see them in the wetter areas of our preserves. The strap-like leaves give it a grass-like appearance. They attract butterflies and other insects, birds and hummingbirds and can be found at any of our open preserves.
Bloom time: May to July
Grass Pink Orchid
The grass pink orchid is a small, native orchid found mainly in sunny areas of wet prairies. Short stalks grow from the grass-like basal foliage to hold the bright pink flowers. Stalks vary in height and in the number of flowers they hold. There can be as many as 24 flowers on a single stalk! These orchids attract pollinators like bees and other small insects. It is listed as threatened in Ohio due to habitat loss and collection of wild specimens. You can find grass pink orchid at our Kitty Todd Preserve and Brown's Lake Bog Preserve.
Bloom time: June to July
Eastern Prickly Pear
Prickly pear is Ohio’s only native cactus. It is state-listed as potentially-threatened because of irresponsible collection from preserves. Each individual flower is short-lived, blooming only for a day, but plants form in colonies, so multiples will bloom at the same time and in succession. Pollinators like bees and other insects love prickly pear blooms. It likes sandy soils and can be found in the globally unique habitats of the Oak Openings region and our Kitty Todd Preserve in northwest Ohio.
Bloom time: June to July
Lucy Braun Prairie Dock
Also known as Lucy Braun's Rosinweed, this plant is named after famed botanist E. Lucy Braun who was a pioneer in land conservation in Ohio. This species is similar, but generally smaller than the straight species. When in flower, it can grow up to 8’ tall. Individual flowers are yellow and grow about 2” across. These plants can be found in the prairie remnants of southern Ohio. Forming large taproots, Lucy Braun prairie dock is fairly drought-resistant and can recover quickly after disturbances to the soil such as fires. Leaves grow vertically and are oriented north-south which is believed to help the plant conserve water on hot summer days. Native bees use the plants for nesting and birds and other wildlife utilize the seeds. You can find this prairie dock species at our E. Lucy Braun Lynx Prairie Preserve.
Bloom time: July to September
Purple coneflowers are one of Ohio’s most popular and recognizable native plants. They are an important food source for butterflies and other pollinators that feed on the plant's nectar. Birds and other creatures also use these plants by eating the seeds after the flowers are spent. Native coneflowers are great plants for your garden and can readily be found in garden centers. If you have these in your garden, don't deadhead the flowers in the fall. Keep them up as long as you can to serve as a food source for wildlife. You can see purple coneflowers at our Edge of Appalachia Preserve.
Bloom time: June through August
Bunchflowers boast large groupings of white and off-white flowers that grow atop tall stems. When in flower, plants grow up to 5’ tall. Pollinators, namely native flies and bees, utilize the nectar. You’ll find these in wooded wetland areas and fens. It is state listed as threatened likely due to loss of viable habitat. There are only a few spots around Ohio where bunchflower still grows, including the J. Arthur Herrick Fen Preserve, which is owned and managed jointly by The Nature Conservancy and Kent State University.
Bloom time: June to July
Northern Pitcher Plant
Also known as purple pitcher plant, this is one of Ohio's few carnivorous plants. Threatened in Ohio, it grows only in a few sites around the state, almost all of which are bog habitats. It can grow in large colonies, but takes a while to establish. The plant itself is interesting with its tube-shaped foliage, but the flower is no less incredible. Flowers unexpectedly rise up out of the foliage like a balloon nodding on a string. You can find these incredible plants at our Brown's Lake Bog Preserve.
Bloom time: May to August
Nodding onion can be found all over the United States and is considered common in most states where it occurs. Delicate looking flower umbels droop downward giving its nodding appearance. When blooming en masse it is a beautiful sight. Individual flowers are pale, rosy pink and bell-shaped. It is an important pollinator plant that attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. These can be found intermittently in the prairie areas of many of our open preserves.
Bloom time: July to August
Sometimes called yellow-fringed orchid, this species is state-listed as threatened in Ohio. It is native to the eastern and south-central United States and can be found in a variety of habitats, but most often in meadows and open woods. Blooms are showy, forming as large clusters of fringed flowers that grow atop stalks that reach 3 feet tall. Butterflies and moths are attracted to this species for its nectar.
TNC staff and volunteers along with volunteers from the University of Toledo, University of Michigan and Great Lakes Orchids took on the task of planting hundreds of these orchids at our Kitty Todd Preserve. The project aims to study this species in the hopes to apply the information to other similar species with threatened populations. These can be found in a few spots around Ohio including Shawnee State Forest and our Kitty Todd Preserve.
Bloom time: July to September
You’ll find these quirky plants in abundance along parts of the Grand River in northeast Ohio. A native species that can be found from New England all the way into the southern U.S., it likes moist soils and shallow waters. When in bloom, the slender stalks are covered with clusters of tiny white flowers that make the stalk droop over and nod, giving the plant its namesake. These plants are important for attracting birds, water fowl, pollinators and other beneficial insects. Some wildlife also find the spreading groundcover helpful for providing cover. Put in your kayak or canoe at our Morgan Swamp Preserve and travel along the Grand River to see these showy flowers.
Bloom time: June to August
Crested Coralroot Orchid
State-listed as a threatened in Ohio, crested coralroot orchid is truly a treasure to see. Up to 15 intricately decorated blooms appear along 12” tall stems. Each flower can be up to 1” across. Hikers might not notice these unassuming plants right away as plants do not have leaves or any other structures that appear above the ground unless it is in flower. And it only blooms when environmental conditions are right, which might not be every year, making it harder to keep track of.
It is a saprophytic plant, which means that it cannot produce its own food like other plants do through photosynthesis. It uses the help of mycorrhizal fungi in the soil to get nutrients. The crested coralroot orchid and the fungi form a symbiotic relationship. The fungi grow around the rhizome of the plant and are able to draw out nutrients from other nearby plants to send back to its host plant, the coralroot.
In Ohio, these only occur in a few southern counties. TNC has worked to protect and restore unique habitats that will support biodiversity. These can be found at our Edge of Appalachia Preserve along the Lynx Prairie or Joan Jones Portman Trail.
Bloom time: June to August
Gray-headed coneflowers are prairie plants that thrive in dry conditions, thanks to their deep roots. These tall, slender plants grow up to 6 feet tall when in flower. Bright yellow blooms with dark brown cones are important for pollinators like birds, bees and butterflies. When the flowers are done blooming, the dried cones hold seeds that are a great food source for birds late into the fall and winter. You might find these in the prairie remnants along one of our most popular trails, Buzzardroost Rock Trail at the Edge of Appalachia.
Bloom time: July to September
Fall-Blooming Ohio Wildflowers
Asters of Ohio
There are about 30 American aster species that call Ohio home, all blooming in late summer through the fall, brightening up fields, forests, and wetlands. These species vary widely in color and bloom size, ranging from white to bright purple. You can find many species of these fall beauties at all TNC Ohio Preserves.
Beginning in mid-summer, the soft masses of fuzzy blue mistflowers begin popping up around moist open woods, riverbanks, creeks, lakes, and wetlands. In full bloom, the plants look like a misty drift of light bluish-purple clouds. It has triangular, opposite leaves, and can grow to between one to three feet tall. Bees and butterflies—especially skippers—love blue mistflower and depend on its late season nectar. You can find blue mistflowers at Edge of Appalachia.
This native wildflower blooms in deep blue, bottle-shaped flowers than do not open. Blooms begin in August, but truly begin to show in September or October and will last until the first hard frost. Bottle gentian isn’t a tall plant, growing only one to two feet in height and its flowers are formed in clusters at the top of the stem. Unlike many other wildflowers, bottle gentian blooms never open, so the flower looks like a bud throughout its blooming time. Due to this, the plant relies almost solely on bumblebees (or other large bees) for pollination, as they are the only insects with the size and strength to open the blossoms to get to the nectar and pollen of the flower. You can find bottle gentian blooming at Kitty Todd Preserve.
The bright yellow, daisy-like blossoms of this fall blooming wildflower are hard to miss, as they can occur in clusters of several flowers at the top of each stem. The tips of the yellow flower rays are doubly notched at the ends, giving them an unusual, semi-ragged appearance. Despite its name, sneezeweed isn’t known for causing allergies—its pollen relies on insects like bees to be moved from plant to plant. Instead, historically, sneezeweed’s leaves were dried and crushed to make a snuff that would cause sneezing, supposedly to cast out evil spirits. You can find common sneezeweed growing in moist, open areas along streams, ponds, and wet meadows, like those at Edge of Appalachia.
This wildflower is a biennal plant, taking two years to complete its lifecycle. During its first year, fringed gentian grows a low round of leaves close to the ground but does not produce any flowers. In its second year, stalks emerge, branching out. Beginning early fall, single flowers open at the end of each stem. These flowers are a bright, cobalt blue and have four spreading petals that are fringed at the end and partially down the sides. These delicate blooms only open on sunny days, keeping closed at night and during cloudy weather. Fringed gentian is a rare wildflower and is highly impacted by habitat loss. It prefers growing in wet meadows and along areas with moist soils, and can be spotted at Kitty Todd Preserve.
Goldenrods of Ohio
Beginning in early September, TNC Ohio’s prairies and forests begin to light up with goldenrod’s tiny, bright yellow blooms. Like asters, there are several species of goldenrod native to Ohio, and all attract a variety of insects seeking end of the season pollen and nectar. Once their flowers turn to seed, goldenrods are a food source for birds.
Growing three to six feet tall, late boneset blooms in late summer throughout fall with small white flowers, clustered along the top of tall green stems. These small blossoms are popular with bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, beetles, and other pollinators. The leaves, however, are bitter and not often eaten by deer or other mammals. While not fussy about soil conditions, late boneset’s size and blooms are significantly affected by moisture levels. While there are other boneset species in Ohio, late boneset has the latest blooming time, making it a crucial food source for pollinators and birds as winter approaches. It’s also the only boneset species that relies on insects for pollination; other species use wind to pollinate. This stunning white fall bloomer can be found in black soil prairies, meadows, and areas around drainage ditches, such as at Big Darby Headwaters and Edge of Appalachia.
Beginning its bloom in midsummer, orange coneflower continues flowering through fall with bold yellow-orange rays around a dark purple-brown disk. This plant grows around three feet tall and flowers prolifically. Orange coneflower is a good nectar source, feeding butterflies and other pollinators. Birds feed on the seeds through the blooming season, but because of orange coneflower’s long bloom time, it remains an important food source for birds through late fall and early winter. You can see orange coneflower in the sunny prairies and meadows at Edge of Appalachia.
A common sight along wooded trails near creeks or ponds, orange jewelweed can be found in bloom from summer through early fall. Its bright orange flowers with red spots are shaped like a cornucopia on individual slender stalks. Rain and dew tend to bead up on the leaves of this plant, forming sparkling droplets, which is why it’s called “jewelweed.” As the fall progresses, jewelweed flowers become slender seedpods that, when ripe, will explosively open at a touch, scattering seeds in all directions; this is how the plant gets its other common name of “touch-me-not.” Indigenous tribes used the sap from jewelweed to relieve the itching caused by poison ivy, insect bites, and other skin irritants. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, long-tongued bee species, butterflies, and other pollinators can often be seen sipping nectar from jewelweed blooms. You can spot jewelweed growing at Edge of Appalachia and northeast TNC Ohio preserves.
You can easily spot tall ironweed in a prairie or meadow in late summer or early fall, as its height and bright magenta blooms often break up the sea of yellow goldenrods and brown-eyed Susans. This distinctive fall wildflower lives up to its name, growing up to 10 feet tall in moist areas, though it typically averages about five to eight feet tall. Its tough green stems grow stiff and upright and are crowned with clusters of 10-30 small, vivid purplish-pink blossoms. A variety of insects are attracted to tall ironweed and it is the host plant for the American Painted Lady butterfly. Some native bee species, like the long horned bee (Melissodes denticulatus), are specially adapted to only feed on ironweed and their lifecycles are timed with the blooming of the plant. Tall ironweed can be found at Edge of Appalachia and the Kitty Todd Preserve.
Blooming in September through the first hard frost, white snakeroot is a common sight in woodlands and along creek sides. It features clusters of small, fuzzy, bright white flowers on top of deep green leaves with coarsely jagged (toothed) edges. White snakeroot’s flowers transform into fluffy tufts, much like dandelions, which are then carried by the wind to grow elsewhere. Snakeroot gets its name from reports of Indigenous people using a medicine made from its roots to treat snakebites. However, the plant itself is mildly toxic and can cause illness in animals who eat the leaves. In fact, people who drank milk from cows who ate snakeroot often developed a disease called “milk sickness.” You can see white snakeroot Edge of Appalachia.
Named for its hooded, two-lipped flowers, white turtlehead is a late summer through fall blooming wildflower found growing near moist woods and swampy areas. As its common name suggests, the flowers are white, but have a pink tinge. They grow in clusters at the top of stout, upright stems and each individual bloom is about an inch long. White turtlehead is primarily pollinated by bumblebees who are big enough to pry open the flowers to get the nectar inside. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will also feed from these flowers. You can find white turtlehead blooming around the Kitty Todd Preserve.
Wingstem gets its name from its unusual stem, which has vertical ridges that appear winglike. These ridges are actually leaf-tissue that grows down the stem. Wingstem’s flowers have distinctive, droopy yellow petals surrounding a dome of spiky yellow florets. This plant can grow eight to ten feet tall, and its leaves can vary in size and shape as they go up the stem. Lower leaves tend to be larger and have toothed edges, while leaves near the top will be smaller and have smooth edges. The leaves have a rough texture, similar to sandpaper. Wingstem is especially important to bees and wasps and supports a large diversity of pollinators. Its seeds are also an important food source for many species of birds. Wingstem thrives in moist, sunny places and you can find it at Edge of Appalachia.