Pop of color

Pop of color

Think spring and get familiar with Rhode Island wildflowers

CUMBERLAND - Just in time, it seems, after this colorless winter, Kathy Barton is coming to the New Dawn Earth Center with insights to share about northern Rhode Island's spring wildflowers.

Barton, an authority on Rhode Island's wild plants and flowers, is speaking at the Ecology Center, 75 Wrentham Road, at 10 a.m. this Saturday, March 29.

Advance registration is required.

She describes her talk, "A Visual Guide to Rhode Island Spring Wildflowers," as a slide show on what participants are likely to see when they go walking this spring in a few weeks.

Barton, a Lincoln resident and former president of the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society, says she got her start in wild plant identification back in the 1960s when Red Rose Tea was including collector's cards on various topics inside each box of tea.

She got hooked on North American wild plants, she said, and soon began to insist her family drink more tea, she recalls with a chuckle.

Later, she planted her own wildflower garden and while taking a guided wild plant walk one day, found herself correcting the guide.

"The next year, I was doing the walk," she said, "and I've been presenting programs ever since."

Barton has 2,100 to 2,200 varieties of Rhode Island wild plants and flowers to choose among in preparing her talk.

She'll be featuring the spring bloomers, she says.

Among the earliest blooms, she says, are two of the scented - the broad-leafed skunk cabbage, found in wet areas. And also the spicebush that can be spotted along roadway wetlands, showing itself first as a green mist in the wetlands. During the Revolutionary War it was a substitute for all spice, she says.

Later in spring will come one of her favorites, hepatica. The lavender and blue flowers show themselves around the third week of April. Look for these lime lovers in the Lime Rock area of Lincoln.

Wildflowers are generally more quiet, more conservative in their appearance, she notes, often colored in whites and yellow, but some, are showy, like the orange wood lily and trillium that blooms in delicate purple flowers. Its scent earned it the nickname "stinking Benjamin," but it's also know as wake robin, and that's where the condominium complex in Lincoln got its name.

Barton will include comments on the 40 varieties of orchids in Rhode Island, including the yellow ladyslipper that blooms in a single place in Cumberland, and the pink variety that's not nearly as rare as many think.

She suggests that at the turn of the 20th century, when the region was 90 percent plowed for farming, the ladyslippers were a rare sight, a fact that became and less true as more woodlands cover old farm fields.

The fee for Saturday's talk is $7 and seating is limited. Call 333-1341 to register.


Kathy Barton, of Lincoln, has been leading wildflower walks for 35 years.