A 30-minute drive west of Pittsburgh leads to one of the most concentrated and abundant displays of wildflowers in the region. The Wildflower Reserve, situated on 314 acres at Raccoon Creek State Park in Hookstown, is home to more than 715 species of wildflowers and is open year round from 8 a.m. to sunset.
Patrick Adams, environmental educator at the park, said the diversity of habitat is what attracts such a wide variety of plants.
"We have flood plains along the creek with really rich soil and we have open meadows," he said. "Up on the ridge is a more deciduous forest and pine plantations ... all that on 314 acres."
To protect the wildflowers, smoking and pets are restricted. Walkers must stay on marked trails.
"It is a fragile area in a lot of spots," Mr. Adams said. "That's a lot of species for such a small amount of acreage and most of the real pretty, showy plants are right along the edge of the trail."
Approximately five miles of trails wind through the property, flanked by seasonal placards that are in place through May 1 to aid in identifying the spring wildflowers. Mr. Adams also recommends people carry a field guide and attend one of the wildflower identification programs and walks that are offered at the Wildflower Reserve, as well as across the region.
Following is a list of upcoming wildflower programs; all are free.
• Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve Wildflower Walk in Fox Chapel is set for 2 p.m. Sunday. Details: www.aswp.org/locations/beechwood.
• Duff Park Wildflower Walk in Murrysville is set for 11 a.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. April 20. Details: www.murrysvilletrails.org or 724-733-2770.
• Frick Environmental Center Wildflower Walk and Campfire Pittsburgh in Frick Park is set for 6 p.m. May 9. Details: www.pittsburghparks.org or 412-682-7275 x232.
• Raccoon Creek State Park Wildflower Reserve Spring Wildflower Walk in Hookstown is set for 2 p.m. April 20 and 21; 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. April 27. Details: www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/raccooncreek/index.htm or 724-899-3611.
• Settlers Cabin Park Spring Wildflowers Walk in Oakdale is set for 10 a.m. April 27. Details: www.alleghenycounty.us/parks/scfac.aspx or 412-787-2750.
• Sewickley Heights Springtime Walk in Sewickley is set for 1 p.m. April 28 and May 5. Details: www.fhnc.org or 412-741-6136.
• Outdoor Classroom Wildflowers and Caches in Upper St. Clair is set for noon May 4. Details: www.theoutdoorclassroompa.org or 412-833-0064.
-- Compiled by Shannon M. Nass