En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
1 rating

Saturday - October 02, 2010

From: Butler, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: First to Bloom in Western PA
Answered by: Anne Bossart


What spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom in Butler, PA?


There is no definitive answer to your question.  In the north the earliest wildflowers to bloom are the woodland ephemerals. They squeeze their whole cycle into the early spring while the sunlight reaches the ground.  By the time the leaves are on the trees, shading the forest floor, many of these plants are getting ready to go dormant. Below is a list of early spring wildflowers found in western Pennsylvania. Two of the earliest could be:

Erigenia bulbosa (harbinger of spring) and Symplocarpus foetidus (skunk cabbage)

which could bloom as early as February, depending on factors such as location and winter snow cover. 

The remainder of the flowers on the list could begin blooming in March.  They can't really be put in "spring appearance" order since when a plant blooms depends on its location and microclimate but I do think I could put Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion) near the beginning of the list.

Erythronium americanum (dogtooth violet)

Epigaea repens (trailing arbutus)

Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot)

Ranunculus fascicularis (early buttercup)

Stylophorum diphyllum (celandine poppy)

Cardamine douglassii (limestone bittercress)  and photos

Hepatica nobilis var. acuta (sharplobe hepatica)

Thalictrum thalictroides (rue anemone)

Saxifraga virginiensis (early saxifrage)

Claytonia virginica (Virginia springbeauty)

Claytonia caroliniana (Carolina springbeauty)

Viola sororia (common blue violet)

Draba verna (Whitlow grass or spring draba)

You can find more native plants of Pennsylvania by doing a "Combination Search" in our Native Plant Database and you can "Narrow Your Search" by using various Characters (e.g., Habit (general appearance), Light requirement, etc.).

Visit the Western Pennsylvania Wildflowers page to find more photos of the above plants (search alphabetically by common name) as well as many more plants, both native and non-native, found in western Pennsylvania.

Erigenia bulbosa

Symplocarpus foetidus

Taraxacum officinale

Erythronium americanum

Epigaea repens

Sanguinaria canadensis

Ranunculus fascicularis

Stylophorum diphyllum

Hepatica nobilis var. acuta

Thalictrum thalictroides

Saxifraga virginiensis

Claytonia virginica

Claytonia caroliniana

Viola sororia





More Wildflowers Questions

Will wildflowers still be blooming end of March from Austin
November 20, 2009 - Hi Mr Smarty Pants - A wildflower enthusiast from Rome Italy wants to schedule a special visit to Austin end March early April 2010. Can she be sure wildflowers will still be blooming then?
view the full question and answer

Native Annual Plant Substitute for Impatiens
May 11, 2013 - What can be used as an annual flowering plant to substitute for the diseased impatiens? Is Vinca one you would suggest?
view the full question and answer

Highway construction in wildflower areas from Kingsland TX
April 22, 2014 - I see no other link to contact about this, except for you. Maybe you can direct me. I just drove Hwy 281 South and a lot of road construction is being done. For many years that I've noticed, there ...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen privacy hedge and drought-resistant garden
July 21, 2008 - I am looking for a hardy evergreen hedge for privacy in Northern Michigan. I have sandy soil. Also am interested in planting a drought garden with mostly sun in same sandy soil.
view the full question and answer

Lupinus perennis Poisonous to Dogs?
April 14, 2013 - I have heard that some lupine varieties are quite poisonous to dogs, others are not. Do you know if it's safe for my dogs if I plant and encourage Lupinus perennis in my NH meadow?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center