In April when I walk, I often find Bloodroot (Sanguinarea canadensis) covering a shady bank on one of my favorite walks. I don’t think many residents know of their existence, as I only found them by accident. The eight to ten white petals easily identify the plant. Bloom lasts about two weeks, but even when not in bloom Bloodroot is easy to recognize. Its deeply-lobed leaves unfurl in bright light, looking somewhat like bluish-green fat hands.

            Like many gardeners, identifying wildflowers, shrubs, and trees is one of my favorite hobbies. As I admire the wild-growing flowers, the thought often crosses my mind what a wonderful addition they would be to my own garden. Wildflowers lure most gardeners to try and grow them, and there are good reasons to use native plants in your garden. They are adapted to the climate and soil type, and therefore thrive with less care. Most can survive with little water other than natural rainfall. Native plants also provide food and habitat for wild animals, birds, and butterflies.

With the Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) blooming along many roadsides in spring, many people are tempted to dig them up to add to their own yard. Our wildflowers should never be transplanted or have the flowers picked. For Trillium, Ladyslippers, and many others, it is against the law. Even for those not on the state-protected list, most do not survive moving. With so many growing in our area, what is wrong with picking the flowers? Although abundant here, they are not plentiful everywhere. For each flower picked, the potential for seed production is lost, reducing the chances for a wildflower community’s continued survival or its reestablishment in another site.

Luckily, during the past decade, more nursery plantsmen and conservationists have collected wild seed, so gardeners can now purchase plants for their garden without hurting the local native plant populations. Some native plants are ‘rescued’ when development threatens their existence. These rescued plants are often sold, giving gardeners another opportunity to collect wildflowers safely.

Advancements in propagation techniques allow gardeners to purchase nursery-grown Ladyslippers, but be prepared to pay a lot for each one. These orchids become rarer in the wild as the flowers seem irresistible to everyone who sees them. For many of us, purchased plants may become the only way to ever enjoy these flowers. Other easily cultivated native plants, like Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum), Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), and Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), have been developed by commercial growers and are commonly available as garden plants.