Perennial favorite: Tiptoe through the trails during CREW Wildflower Festival

Kathy Broyard
Roger Hammer leads a hike during a CREW Wildflower Festival.

Kathy Broyard Roger Hammer leads a hike during a CREW Wildflower Festival.

Hunting for wildflowers is a bit like nature’s version of an Easter egg hunt. The hues certainly are similar — blushing pastels, washed out blues and creamy whites are what you’re hunting for. And the thrill of spotting a bud is certainly similar to the thrill of spotting an Easter egg before your kid sister does.

The noise level, however, is not.

During next Saturday’s Eleventh Annual Wildflower Festival at CREW Land and Water Trust, groups of near-silent hikers will tiptoe through the trails, stopping to spot tiny blossoms along the way. Unlike this weekend’s full-contact Easter egg hunts, there will be no shrieking, no wailing and certainly no tantrums, as that would scare the wildlife away.

Interestingly, the CREW Wildflower Festival didn’t start out as a festival at all.

“It started out as a spring wildflower hike and by about the fourth year we had realized, wow, people really like this,” explains Deb Hanson, the park’s environmental education specialist. “We had 20 then 40 then 60 and pretty soon it was clear that we needed to add more hikes and activities,” she adds.

This year, the two-day festival will feature exhibits, lectures, guided hikes and scavenger hunts and art projects for kids. The entire event kicks off on the evening of Friday, April 5, with a lecture on wildflowers presented by authors Glen Stacell and Dr. Gary Schmelz.

On Saturday, April 6, festivities continue with workshops on creating edible landscapes, drawing and sketching nature and the life of bees. Hanson does expect some of the hikes, such as the wildflower identification hike, the bird and butterfly hike and the wildflower photography hike, to fill up well in advance.

While the true peak of wildflower season is probably not for a few more weeks, Hanson guarantees there will still be lots of blooms for those who are looking. “We had a hike go out a few days ago and they saw 52 different species. The thing is, they’re not big and showy fields of flowers, but when you get out and start looking you’ll realize they’re everywhere.”

That’s what Dr. David Cooper, a longtime CREW volunteer, likes best about leading hikes during the festival. He’s been helping people discover the beauty of wildflowers for more than 10 years and says it just gets better every time.

“There are gardens where people have set up these magnificent displays of flowers but this isn’t like that. These flowers aren’t arranged by people, so there’s this thrill of discovery,” he says, adding, “You feel like an explorer.”

Cooper says he encourages everyone in the group to keep a lookout, noting that when it comes to spotting tiny blossoms, 20 eyes are better than two. Along the way he usually tries to point out some of the interesting ecology that makes CREW Land and Water Trust so special.

Butterfly weed is just one of the plants you may see during the CREW Wildflower Festival.
Brenda Thomas

Butterfly weed is just one of the plants you may see during the CREW Wildflower Festival. Brenda Thomas

“You go through all these different ecosystems, like the pine flatwoods and the hardwood hammock. You get submerged in nature and it’s kind of a wonderful thing.”

IF YOU GO

11th Annual CREW Wildflower Festival

When:

Friday, April 5: 7 to 9 p.m.: Wildflower Presentation by Glen Stacell & Gary Schmelz at the Bonita Nature Place, 27601 Kent Road, Bonita Springs. Free

Saturday, April 6

Events and hikes depart from CREW Cypress Dome Trails, 3980 Corkscrew Road, Immokalee

8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Free exhibits, kids’ scavenger hunt with prizes, presentations, food/drinks for sale

8:45, 9:30, 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m.: Adult Wildflower Hike

9:30 a.m.: Tree/Shrub Hike

9:30 a.m.: Flower Photography Walking Workshop

10:15 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.: Family Scavenger Hike & Sunprint Making

10:15 a.m.: Bloom, Butterfly, Bird Hike

11 a.m.: Adult Butterfly/Plant Hike

11:45 a.m. Beginner Wildflower Hike

Cost: Events Saturday are free; guided hikes are $4 for CREW members and $6 for non-members, family scavenger hikes are $8 for CREW member family and $12 for non-member families. All guided hikes must be booked in advance, which can be done at http://crewtrust.org or by calling 239-657-2253

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