Revel in a Wildflower Tour of Forest Park
With names as remarkable as their blooms, the wildflowers now beginning to bloom in Forest Park offer opportunities to experience natural beauty in its native setting.
But the Park’s wildflowers are not just pretty — they are essential components of the Park’s ecosystem, Nature Reserve Steward Josh Wibbenmeyer says.
“Wildflowers are the first thing to emerge in the spring that provide nectar to spring insects,” he explains. “Some species of ground-nesting bees have evolved alongside the spring flora, and they need that nectar. Many early spring wildflowers also have elaiosomes attached to the seed that are rich in protein and a good food source for ants.”
Wibbenmeyer and his crew work hard year-round to help the wildflowers flourish in various areas of Forest Park by planting seed, nursery grown plugs and occasionally digging up roots from large populations and moving them to new areas to help them spread.
“Our goal is to promote their establishment and further their spread,” Wibbenmeyer says.
On April 30, you’ll get your first opportunity to meet Wibbenmeyer as he takes you on an expert-led wildflower walk through Round Lake Vista, an area of the Park that he and other Forest Park Forever Nature Reserve staff members, volunteers and partner organizations have been restoring for the past several years. Future guided walking tours are scheduled for May 28 (Kennedy Forest), August 27 (Deer Lake Savanna), and September 24 (returning to Round Lake Vista).
But with about 30 species of spring ephemeral wildflowers in the Nature Reserve, why wait? Here’s a three-mile walking tour that will give you a preview of what you might see on those tours. We encourage you to use ForestParkMap.org, an interactive GPS-enabled resource, to help guide you.
Our tour starts at the Hampton Ave. roundabout. Walk down Wells Drive past Carr Lane Dr. On your left, you’ll see the Successional Forest. Climbing the hill toward the Jewel Box roundabout, you’ll pass by an area of the forest where some 5,000 plugs will be planted in May.
Enter the Successional Forest after turning left at the Jewel Box roundabout onto McKinley Dr. If you venture off the sidewalk and explore a bit, you can find two healthy patches of white trout lily. Forest Park Forever staff have helped them spread by replanting their roots.
Back on McKinley, head to Union and turn right. About a quarter of a mile down, across from the intersection of Summit and Union, a creek flows on the right. Along its banks grow patches of phlox and bluebells.
At Theatre Drive, turn right. Near the intersection of Grand and Faulkner is the start of the Round Lake Vista. On April 30, Wibbenmeyer will take guests through the trail that meanders through this little-known area of the Park.
“With about 200 different species of seed or plugs planted here since 2014, this three-acre area is our most diverse restoration in the Park,” Wibbenmeyer says.
In Round Lake Vista, you can see golden Alexander, woodland phlox, Jacob’s ladder, golden ragwort, dwarf larkspur grown from bare-root transplants, foxglove beardtongue, and blue-eyed Mary planted from seed collected at Emmenegger Nature Park in Kirkwood, founded by Missouri Wildflowers author Edgar Dennison.
Next, go west on Theatre Dr. At the northwest corner of Theatre and Union is the recently cleared area of Deer Lake South. Here, look for Virginia bluebells and golden ragwort growing in the dappled sunlight amidst the trees. The golden ragwort, a new addition for 2019 in Deer Lake South, features an attractive deep purple color on the underside of its leaves.
Continue on Union to Grand Dr. Turn left onto Grand. Before you reach Cricket Field is Deer Lake Savannah on your left, site of the August 27 tour. If you go in the morning, you’ll see fresh blooms of spiderwort. The blooms last until evening when they fade, only to be replaced by fresh blooms in the morning.
At Cricket, turn left and go to the roundabout in front of the Muny. Go around the roundabout to return to McKinley. Between McKinley and Concourse, after you cross the bridge, is another recently restored area.
Explore along the bike trail to see celandine poppy, Jacob’s ladder, bloodroot planted from seed, trillium transplanted from the Kennedy Forest, site of the May 28 tour. Dutchman’s breeches and the appropriately named harbinger of spring, both planted from seed, round out the wildflower features of this wooded area.
Now you’ve earned a break — head over to the Boathouse for a beverage!
Forest Park’s wildflowers are a true sign that spring has finally returned to St. Louis. Sign up for your guided tours now, as spaces are sure to fill up quickly!