The Prettiest Blooms You'll See On Campus This Spring

If you have spring fever, need relaxation time in nature, or just want to take up a new and interesting hobby, identifying plants around campus can be a great excuse to get out of the florescent light of the library. Green is finally appearing on trees around campus again, making it feel like winter is finally over and done for up here in the mountains. I decided that this would be a great time to get outside and try and capture some of the spring flowering plants while I can. Here are seven flowering plants that I noticed blooming around campus and some cool facts about them!


Ornamental Peach Tree (Prunus)

The ornamental peach tree is developed for its showy blossoms, and their fruit is nearly inedible. They are generally dwarf tree species and the gorgeous blossoms bloom in the spring with clusters of single or double-flowing peach petals.


Lily Magnolia (Magnolia liliflora)

The Lily Magnolia bush is one of the smaller species of magnolia that bursts into reddish-purple blossoms April through May. As the flowers fall, dark green, elliptical-shaped leaves appear to replace them. The lily magnolia is a native of China that was brought over for ornamental purposes.


Rhododendron Bush (Rhododendron ferrugineum)

The rhododendron bushes may be seen all over the mountainsides from spring through summer, covering the hillsides in purple and pink blossoms. Rhododendrons can be either deciduous or evergreen and are closely related to azaleas. These brightly-colored bushes originate from Asia, southern Europe, North America and south pacific island chains like Malaysia, and are always found near mountains. They thrive in shade and thus prosper in the high-relief areas near major mountain ranges such as the Himalayas and the Appalachian ranges. At one point, a single species of this plant was present on all continents, and as continental drift split them apart, several different varieties evolved in isolation.


Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

The common Dandelion is likely already recognizable to you if you ever spent time blowing on the wispy seed heads and making a wish. This plant blooms year-round although mainly in the spring and fall. It is found in disturbed areas including lawns, pastures and roadsides in sun and in shade. The whole plant is edible from flowers to spikey leaves to roots. The taste is similar to that of arugula, and they are incredibly healthy. Dandelions are high in calcium, iron, vitamin K and vitamin C, and also contains other essential minerals including folic acid, potassium, and magnesium. Because of their health-food like benefits and high fiber content, some use them to cleanse the body of toxins and relieve constipation. 


Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris)

The buttercup was introduced to North America from Eurasia as an ornamental garden plant but now grows wild in weedy meadows, roadsides and woodland borders. The foliage is toxic to mammals and so is usually widespread in cow and horse pastures. This particular type of buttercup can be distinguished from similar buttercups by its taller height, its large flower size and its deeply-divided palmate leaf lobes.


Heal-All Herb (Prunella vulgaris)

Heal-all is an edible and medicinal North American plant with square-stems and light blue to purplish flowers. It is generally a weed of turfgrass and is found along the edges of lawns and fields. It has been used medicinally to soothe a number of symptoms including a sore throat, allergies, upset stomach, irritation, and small wounds. It contains a variety of anti-inflammatory compounds and vitamins which may contribute to its healing properties. Some studies even suggest that this plant may help treat diabetes and cancer.


Wood Sorel

A wood sorrel is a clover look-alike that has small heart-shaped leaves which grow in clusters of three along with small yellow flowers. It is a common lawn weed that blooms April through September and thrives in partial shade. Its scientific genus Oxalis means "sour" and is named for its oxalic acid content which is toxic if consumed in high quantities, as it inhibits the absorption of calcium. It is rich in vitamin C, however, and was historically used to treat scurvy. Uses include harvesting it to use as a meat seasoning, to use in a salad and as an herbal tea.


I hope this list of some common flowering plants gotten you excited to get outside and enjoy the natural beauty of this time of year. It’s a lot of fun to find a new plant to identity and researching their many uses. Once we start paying attention, we find out just how amazing plants are! Wishing you the chance to experience the joy of green and growing things in your own backcountry identification adventures.

All images courtesy of Sophia Barron.