12 Best Forest Wildflowers To Spot On Your Next Adventure

Many flowers need full sunlight to thrive, but there are plenty that prefer the shady conditions of the forest. These flowers offer pockets of vibrant color and make any forest walk much more interesting.

12 Best Forest Wildflowers To Spot On Your Next Adventure

Here are some varieties that you should keep an eye out for on your next forest adventure.

1. Alaska Violet

Despite being called the Alaska Violet, this flower is actually native to Oregan, Washington and British Columbia. It is found in woodland as well as in prairies and meadows or even along the banks of ponds and streams.

This perennial flower likes soil that is damp but well-drained and grows best in partial shade. You will most likely spot it in the gaps between the trees where the sun is able to reach the forest floor, or when the sunlight is dappled.

This is an early spring flower that blooms through until the end of May. The flowers are delicate and lilac in color, and add a lovely splash of color to the green and brown of the forest.

2. Bluebell

Bluebells are an iconic forest flower with an enchanting appearance. The bell shaped flowers dangle from the arched stems in a romantic style, and the deep violet or blue coloring stands out against the green foliage.

They are a spring bloomer, from April through to the end of May, but the flowers will die off as the weather heats up. You can find this flower in deciduous woodland, usually around the base of trees where the flowers will be well-shaded.

They also grow in hedgerows, meadows, and even on cliffs. They need moist but well-drained soil, and prefer areas that are at least partially shaded.

If you stumble across a sun-dappled glade in a forest where the bluebells are growing in abundance, it is a particularly stunning sight.

3. Columbine

The columbine flower is part of the buttercup family and it grows in abundance in the Northern Hemisphere. It is usually found They grow in woodlands and meadows and are also found at higher altitudes.

They like soil that is evenly moist but not soggy, and partially shaded areas. The edge of a forest or a glade is the ideal place to spot columbine flowers. These flowers have five petals with spurs that extend backwards, away from the center.

The middle petals are paler, with the spurred petals being deeper in color. They have a striking appearance, so if you are exploring their habitat you won’t be able to miss them.

Keep an eye out for them during their blooming season which is spring through to early summer. 

4. Dog Violet

Dog violets are small perennial flowers that have five overlapping petals. They are often a striking lilac in color, but also come in shades of blue and some paler colors. Dog violets are very similar to the sweet violet, but they are unscented.

They attract butterflies, so it is not uncommon to see a crowd of them flitting around a group of dog violets. Dog violets need fertile soil with plenty of organic matter. This makes forests an ideal location.

They like full sun or partial shade, so you are more likely to find them on the edge of the woodland rather than deep in the trees. They can also be found in rocky ground and on cliffs.

They usually flower between April and June, so you have quite a long period of time to spot them.

5. Calypso Orchid

The calypso orchid is also known as the fairy slipper. It grows in the northern, northeastern and northwestern states of the US as well as Canada and Alaska. They can be hard to spot as they grow alone rather than in clumps.

The flowers are often pink with a contrasting yellow labellum. One of the interesting things about this flower is that it tricks pollinators with its sweet scent and alluring colors, but offers them no reward.

You will usually find these flowers in shady and wet forests, often coniferous, as well as in boggy areas, swamps and floodplains. It blooms from early May right through to July.

This flower is considered rare in certain states, such as Wisconsin, Vermont and Michigan.

6. Cowslip

The cowslip is a humble plant that is in the same family as the primrose. It is a herbaceous flowering perennial with a scent that is similar to apricots.

The vibrant yellow flowers offer a welcome brightness to forests and meadows, blooming from April through to May. This flower has a rich history in Britain where it was used in weddings and May Day celebrations.

The destruction of its habitat has caused numbers to decline and it is now more of a rare sight. The plant grows in a rosette type shape, with crinkly green leaves surrounding the pretty flowers.

They prefer well-drained soil and can grow in partial shade or in full sun. Whilst native to Europe, this plant has now become naturalized in Northern America and is also a popular domestic plant, often used as border edging.

7. Fireweed

Fireweed is a stunning wildflower that can grow in various different conditions, making it prolific and easy to spot. It can thrive in open meadowland or along roadsides, but it particularly likes the edges of forests and woodlands.

In areas where it is abundant, it forms a whole carpet of pink flowers across a meadow or a glade. It is known for being the first plant to grow back after a forest fire. These plants like moist soil that is well-drained, and full sun.

They can also grow in partial shade, and like to have a rich soil with plenty of nutrients. In Britain, this plant is called bombweed. All parts of the plant are edible, and it is also considered a herb that can be used to treat various ailments.

8. Deadly Nightshade

Deadly nightshade is toxic to humans, but many woodland animals eat it as part of their diet. The leaves are more dangerous than the berries, but you must be careful if you have small children.

The berries look like a tasty treat but it only takes a few to kill a child. This plant is best admired from afar. This perennial plant is usually found in forest clearings where there is partial shade and nutrient-rich soil. It grows upwards, reaching heights of 5 feet.

It flowers between June and September, then the flowers give way to berries. The flowers are bell shaped and purple in color, with green leaves.

9. Starflower

Starflower is an annual herbaceous plant, but it spreads very quickly so more and more of them will pop up every year. It can be quite invasive once it has established itself in an area. They are pollinated by bees, and offer an important source of food for them.

These flowers prefer moist or damp soil in sun-dappled forest where there is plenty of nutrients. However, they are hardy and can also be found in drier, harsher conditions.

These flowers bloom from mid to late spring with pale, pretty flowers with six pointed petals which form a star shape. This plant is used to make starflower oil which can improve skin, ease joint pain, aid with weight loss and assist with hormone balance.

10. Dog Rose

Dog Rose is a plant that likes to cling on to other shrubs as it grows. This supports the dog rose and enables it to spread further. This is why it is often found in hedgerows and along the edges of woodland. If well supported, it can grow up to 10 feet tall.

They like full sun, so you won’t find them deep in the forest. The soil should be heavy, evenly moist and well drained, with plenty of nutrients. However, it can also grow in light soil. The flowers bloom from May to August and have a faintly sweet scent.

They are pink in color, with thin, floaty petals and lots of stamens. The foliage is small, pointed leaves that got on the woody stems. Once the flowers have gone, the plant will be covered in clusters of hips that are full of seeds.

11. Pink Wintergreen

Pink Wintergreen is native to North America and is usually found in forest areas. The leaves stay green all year round, even through the winter, which is where the plant gets its name.

It blooms in the summer, with pink bell-shaped flowers that dangle from the upwards-growing stem. It can grow in full shade or partial sun and prefers moist, loamy soil.

12. Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle is a climbing plant that is native to North America and Eurasia. It grows in woodland or hedgerows, where it can cling to branches to support itself. It will often twist and warp whatever it grows on.

The flowers bloom in the summer and have a strong, sweet smell. In the Fall, the flowers give way to berries. Ideally, this plant likes to have the roots in the shade but the flowers in the sun. The soil should be moist and well-drained.


All of these flowers grow well in forest conditions. Keep an eye out for them on your next outdoor adventure.

Diane Peirce

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