BANGOR — The Bangor Land Trust’s new wildflower hike series feels more like a museum tour. Led by three Master Maine Naturalists and one retired college biology professor, a tour of the Walden-Parke Preserve in Bangor felt like a walk past preplanned stations.

This seems odd, considering what you’ll find in nature is never a sure thing.

Still the trip leaders made good guesses at what wildflowers the woods path would reveal because, as Dick Andren said during the slow two-hour amble: “There is nothing more pragmatic than nature.”

“If everything bloomed at the same time they would compete for pollinators (like bees and butterflies),” said Andren, a retired biology professor from Dixmont. “The fact different wildflowers bloom in stages reduces competition. It’s good for bugs.”

When the 15-year-old land trust offered a guided study of wildflower last year, it was an instant hit, with more than 20 showing up, said Donne Sinderson, the Bangor Land Trust program director. So the popular program was expanded to a summer-long series this year.

As a Master Maine Naturalist, Sinderson knew one walk wouldn’t tell the whole story of the diverse native wildflowers found in Maine. She said many like-colored wildflowers bloom at the same time, changing the forest from a sea of white ground cover in spring to a yellow swath colored with purples, pinks and blue flowers in July.

This year’s Wildflower Walk Series offers a walk each month of summer and extends into September. The next walk is July 9 in the West Penjajawoc Grasslands in Bangor.

The walks offer a lesson in wildflower species, plant identification and the difference between rare and common species in Maine. Andren, the retired professor, also likes to highlight how different ecosystems function like a well-built machine.

“Flowering plants and insects have had this dance going on for thousands of years,” Andren said.

At the hike along Walden-Parke Preserve the four walk leaders took two weeks ago, trip leader Clare Cole of Hampden predicted the group would find 25 species of wildflowers in bloom. They saw 22, including several species of white wildflowers.

The pale, rare lady slippers were out in great numbers, while the small starflower, the low-lying bunchberry and the three-petalled trillium, which has a splash of purple, were found in several places.

“Late July and August are the time for yellow. Now it’s mostly white plants. And trees have wildflowers, as well,” Cole said.

The walk was not just a chance to learn common and Latin plant names; it told a story about regional cultures.

“The common names tend to be regional and they vary by region,” said Cole, a Maine Master Naturalist and wildflower expert.

Cole said one good example is the shadbush, a small tree with white flowers that blooms in early spring in Maine. Also called the shadblow and juneberry, it was dubbed the “shadbush” for the shad that return in the spring to their spawning grounds.

The blue wildflowers called bluets are another plant with a regional name. Andren said the flowers are often called “Quaker Ladies” in Pennsylvania, where he taught at Montgomery County Community College near Philadelphia. The name was coined for the flower’s pale shade of blue that was thought to be similar to clothes made by Quakers.

They’re a perennial found throughout Maine in spring.

Another wildflower found on the walk hidden beside birch trees was the purple rhodora – so eye-catching and opulent it was mentioned in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s prose.

Andren said the flower has brightly extending leaves to help it attract pollinating bugs.

“Flowers like the rhodora are showy, and there is a reason they’re showy,” Sinderson said.


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