Identifying and Picking Wildflowers with your Kids

Wildflower hunting is a very special activity for kids. It is a great way to spend time outdoors as a family, go on fun and scenic hikes through undiscovered paths and learn valuable lessons about the beauty and importance of nature.

"Carrizo Plain" by Bill Ward is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Here are some great ideas to make the wildflower hunt really special for you and your family.

Preparing for the trek - You can make your wildflower trek even more educational by doing a little research beforehand. Invest in a good child-friendly wildflower identification guide. A few good ones are ‘The Wildflower Detective’s Handbook’ by Camilla de la Bedoyere and ‘Shanleya’s Quest’ by Thomas J. Elpel. When buying the book, pay attention to the geographical area that the book deals with. The wildflowers that you find differ from region to region, so if you end up with the wrong book, it will not help you in your wildflower trek. Once you have the book, take time to go through it before your hike. Look for the names of the most common wildflowers and pay attention to the special characteristics that differentiate it from the others.

Pack right – To make the most of your wildflower hunt, ensure you pack everything you need. A sketch pad and pencil will help your kids sketch out the flowers they come across, and make drawings of the natural beauty they encounter. A camera is useful for capturing the wildflowers and then identifying them afterward. You can also take great pictures of your family on the hunt, and your kids among the flowers. A blanket will help you and your kids get comfortable while sitting among the flowers or lying down to sketch the plants. Food and drinks will keep you energized and comfortable during your trek. Don’t forget to keep a trash bag with you so you don’t end up littering. And of course, take your wildflower identification guide along.

Wildflower hunting etiquette – There are a few things to keep in mind while on your trek. Many states and national parks prohibit people from plucking wildflowers. Find out what rules apply in your region and make sure to explain them to your kids. ‘Pic’ing is always better than picking as it doesn’t disturb the natural ecosystem of the place. Some wildflowers are rare or endangered, and plucking them will only make things worse. Even if you are allowed to pluck wildflowers, ensure you only take the most common ones and from places where they are available in plenty. When sitting down or lying down among the flowers, ensure you pick a spot on the grass where you won’t end up crushing any of them. Also make very sure not to leave any plastics or other trash lying around in the area.

Identifying the wildflowers – When trying to identify the flowers that you saw, pictures will prove more useful than drawings as you may not have captured the finer details in your sketch. You can either flip through the identification guide looking for the flower that most closely resembles your photograph, or you can use the patterns method to help in your identification. The book ‘Shanleya’s Quest’ helps kids understand the basic patterns that are characteristic of each of the plant families. Once you get the plant family right, narrowing your search and identifying the right species becomes a lot easier.

Visit a wildflower conservation center – You can either plan your entire wildflower hunt inside a conservation center, or visit one for additional information before or after your trek. These centers are great for understanding how important the wildflowers are in the environment, and what efforts are being made to protect them.

Going on a wildflower hunt is an excellent way to contribute to your child’s holistic education. Just use these simple tips and ideas to make your experience a fruitful and unforgettable one.

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