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The power of flowers

Natural Bridge has natural stress reducers

Author and naturalist Henry David Thoreau wrote in 1862: “When we walk we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become of us if we walked only in a garden or a mall?” Thoreau was a big believer that walks in the wild could relieve stress. Decades of research, including a recent Stanford University study, have proved him right.

Some of the wonderments of nature you might see on your walk in the woods are flowers. In a 10-month study involving participants, researchers at Rutgers University explored the link between flowers and human emotions. The conclusion: exposure to flowers “is a powerful positive-emotions inducer.”

So what happens when you combine walks in the woods with exposure to flowers? That has got to be a double whammy of happy emotions—and a good reason to attend Wildflower Weekend at Natural Bridge State Resort Park on April 29 through May 1.

For more than 30 years, the Kentucky Native Plant Society has sponsored the event. Biologist and KNPS President Zeb Weese says, “There will be dozens of hikes during the weekend to the sites of blooming native wildflowers, led by professors, biologists, and botanists.” Visitors will see many beautiful species with names like the showy orchis, birdfoot violet, and pink lady’s slipper.

Because Kentucky’s latitude gives us elements of the north, south, east, and west, we are fortunate to have a wide array of wildflowers that reflect that climatic diversity. In fact, Kentucky is home to more than 2,000 species of wildflowers. Weese says, “Besides being fun and a great photography opportunity, visitors will learn about Kentucky wildflowers and their importance. Wildflowers are essential to pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and other insects, and pollinators are critically important to us.”

Wildflowers support whole ecosystems. Not only are they hosts to egg-laying insects like the monarch butterfly, their seeds, nectar, and pollen are the food supply for a variety of other insects. So, if we lost our wildflowers, we’d have fewer insects, which are the main food supply for many species of birds. In the web of life, this impact on the food chain would eventually reach people. Wildflower Weekend at Natural Bridge will give you some new insight and you’ll get some exercise at the same time.

Finally, that Rutgers University study caused a light bulb to go off in my head. I’m going to the flower shop to buy that special someone a bouquet of “positive emotion inducers.” Maybe you should, too.

Insider Tips
For more information on Wildflower Weekend, visit the Kentucky Native Plant Society Web site at www.knps.org or contact Natural Bridge State Resort Park at (606) 663-2214. Also check the Web sites of Kentucky’s national parks and recreation areas for spring wildflower events.

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