COLUMBIA — Wildflowers are in bloom at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park this spring despite unseasonably cool weather.
Park volunteer Randal Clark has led spring wildflower walks in the park for 31 years. He said since the average temperature has been much lower than usual for this time of year, the blooming of wildflowers has been slightly delayed.
"Two things trigger blooming: the amount of light the flower gets and the soil temperature," Clark said. "With cold nights and cool days, flowers just don't bloom as fast."
Clark estimates the wildflowers are about two weeks behind in their blooming.
"For example, bluebells just started to bloom, and they usually bloom in late March," he said.
Starting in March, Clark has led his wildflower walk every week on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. On the first couple of walks, Clark usually sees one or two species. More flowers appear as the weeks pass. By late April, 15 to 20 different species can be seen in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.
The peak for wildflowers will come in early May, when 30 to 40 species, such as the shooting star flower, are in full bloom.
Each week, Clark takes nature enthusiasts on a different path.
"We get to see what changes every week," Clark said. "If it's the same path, then it gets boring."
Clark said during the last walk of the year, on May 16, people can expect to see a large number of glade plants, which grow in the rockier landscapes of Missouri.
The walks are free to the public and do not require reservations. The walk starts at the Devil's Icebox parking lot.
Clark will be leading a special walk on May 5 along the Katy Trail. Starting in the Cooper's Landing area, this walk will explain history of the trail and folklore of wildflowers.
Reservations, which are required for this event, can be made at 449-7400.