Bee Balm. Photo: Bashakill Wildlife Management Area
The coronavirus pandemic is impacting all of us in both profound and personal ways everyday. In addition to the devastating loss of life that has touched so many, businesses are remaining shut down, graduations and weddings are getting nixed, and the way we do everything from grocery shopping to heading out to grab a glass of wine has changed, seemingly overnight.
This crisis affects our mental and physical health, not to mention the way we work and play. People are drinking more alcohol, eating more junk food, watching more TV, and indulging in other enjoyable activities that may feel good now, but perhaps not later.
Things have become so obviously stressful for so many, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched an entirely new section on its website devoted to coping strategies and advice. The American Psychological Association has done the same. Experts have issued dire predictions that the impact of the trauma and stress from coronavirus may lead to significant and lingering emotional issues in the years to come.
How on earth do we grapple with it all? While no panacea, we would argue that being outdoors enjoying the wildflowers that grace our spring offers an escape and a space for healing and hope that even the most extreme social distancing advocate or germaphobe would find refreshing. We are all familiar with that sensation of contentment and wellbeing when gazing at a field of flowers. Moreover, multiple scientific studies have also been conducted to establish the mental and even physical healing powers of flowers.
One 10-month study conducted by Rutgers showed that flowers had an “immediate” impact on happiness and moods, with long-term effects on depression and anxiety.
Flowers also reintroduce humidity into the air by releasing water, which helps moisten dry nasal and throat passages. "Lack of humidity creates an environment in your body that breeds infections," Raj Dasgupta, MD, a pulmonary sleep doctor and professor at the Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California told Elle. "That's why in the dry wintertime you see so many people getting the cold and flu. Water released naturally by plants will help with sore throats, dry skin, and heavy dry cough."
If you feel like you want to get out and get your #wildflower on, we’ve gathered our favorite places to view New York State’s wealth of wildflowers. REMINDER: Even outside, it’s smart to take precautions. The CDC recommends staying six feet away from people in parks and avoid gathering with people outside of your household. You can also have a mask handy in case other people might be within that six foot radius. Bring hand sanitizer unless water and soap are available.
4007 Bishop Hill Road, Marcellus
Bloodroot. Photo: Baltimore Woods Nature Center
The Mildred E. Faust Wild Flower garden has forest and field wildflowers, many of which are literally introverted, meaning visitors have to get almost to ground level to appreciate some of the more colorful ground-facing blossoms. Look for cut-leaved toothwort, a white flower with tooth-shaped petals. The Spring Beauty, pink threaded with delicate violet and white stripes, can also be found. Both are scattered around the Empire State’s woods, but here they can be enjoyed in profusion.
44927 Cross Island Road, Fineview
Fleabane and "Pinks". Photo: Minna Anthony Common Nature Center
This is one of the largest nature centers in the state’s park system. Perched on a 600-acre peninsula of Wellesley Island in the St. Lawrence River, Minna Anthony has eight miles of hiking trails and a butterfly house featuring native flora and, of course, butterflies. Look for bloodroot, a white flower with eight to 12 petals one to one and a quarter inches long that “bleed” sunset orange. Visitors will also find spring beauties and hepatica, a buttercup with one-inch wide blue, pink, or white flowers with lobed leaves.
Alder Bend Road, Altona
This wildlife management area encompasses 1,356 acres of balsam flats, bogs, and sandstone pavement barrens. There are several popular trout-fishing spots, along with miles of trails featuring blooming apple and cherry trees, marsh marigolds, wild sarsaparilla, and several types of orchids. Bogs + cherry trees + orchids. Only in New York, kids.
New York, New York
Central Park may be in the middle of Manhattan, but it features some of the most photographic blooms in the world. Look for the pink blooms streaming like confetti in a ticker-tape parade from crabapple trees near the Conservatory Garden’s Center Garden (around 105th street), which has six acres of French-style and Italianate-style gardens, and a classic English garden as well. Tulips, daffodils, witch hazel, and higan cherry are fan favorites. Around 79th street on the west side of the Park, the Shakespeare Garden, with four acres of mini bulbs, plus roses, peonies, violets and many others, await. For wildflower enthusiasts, Dene Slope at 65th street awaits, where fields of black-eyed Susans, yarrows, and native grasses wave in the breeze. For the millions of New York City residents who don’t have a summer home in the Hamptons, this is their own country estate.
Haven Road, Mamakating
Just an hour north of New York City, 2,000 acres of birdsong and blossoms are performing their own private symphony. Several miles of trails hug an old rail line and a towpath near the former Delaware and Hudson Canal, where 200+ species of birds, 40+ species of butterflies, and 200+ species of flowers trill, flit, and bloom.
19 Roosevelt Drive, Saratoga Springs
Iris. Photo: Saratoga Spa State Park
Native plants do more than inspire and soothe us. Many also serve as an essential link in our fragile ecosystem. At Saratoga Spa State Park, a program is underway to collect wildflower seeds and plant blue lupine, a tall, multi-bloom, violet-hued flower that serves as the only food of the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly during its caterpillar stage. The butterfly flourishes in pitch pine-scrub oak barrens like those that dominate Spa Park.
605 Old Saratoga Road, Gansevoort
Moreau Lake State Park offers an incredible bounty of native and rare species of flowers and plants in its 6,000 acres of habitat. For flower obsessives, the name of the park will be familiar, even if they’ve never visited, as new species are frequently discovered in its bounds, which include a portion of the Palmerton Mountain Range, three lakes (Moreau, Ann, and Bonita) and banks of the Hudson River. There are several endangered flowers blooming there, including the ferocious looking whorled mountain mint, the large-leaved avens (with impossibly delicate sun-yellow petals) and the rather thorny looking small-flowered dwarf-bulrush. Look out for the threatened small floating bladderwort, which blooms like a yellow star several inches above water in lakes and the rare, majestic looking great St. John’s wort, showy, golden-hued, on stems four feet high.
2084 Emery Road, South Wales
This 457.5-acre parks features formal gardens, a stone arch footbridge over Cazenovia Creek, picnic areas, tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course, and, of course, ample hiking and walking trails brimming with tree plantations and the hilly fields of wildflowers, including ephemerals, trilliums, spring beauties, bloodroot, and colt’s foot. It’s the type of storybook park that reminds you the sublime can exist in people and flowers; usually fleeting, but never forgotten, and always cherished.
We hope you’re finding ways to recall the deep beauty and stillness that can be found in the midst of our disrupted lives.