Spring Wildflowers and Where to Find Them in Northern Virginia

Bluebells and other spring wildflowers carpet the ground throughout Northern Virginia beginning in March, which is a wonderful reason to take frequent walks and hikes. Here are some of the blooms to watch for on local trails. Scroll down for a list of our favorite walks for enjoying these short-lived spring beauties.

UPDATE 3/22/2020: Many of the parks and trails listed here are experiencing crowds, which makes it impossible to maintain safe social distance. We highly recommend you avoid these trails for now and use this guide to look for flowers close to home.

A mix of Virginia wildflowers bloom in early spring
A mix of Virginia wildflowers bloom in early spring

We have lived in Northern Virginia for 25 years, but we’re still learning about Virginia ephemerals. Our friends at Green Thumb Gardening provided expertise identifying many of these flowers. We also used the beautiful VirginiaWildflowers.org site and highly recommend it for anyone who wants to learn more about our native flora.

Spring Wildflowers in Northern Virginia

Virginia Bluebells

Our favorite spring wildflower is the Virginia Bluebell. This beauty takes over sandy portions of the Potomac Heritage Trail and other stream valley trails every April. They generally start growing and spreading in mid-to-late March, and peak in mid-to-late April.

Most of the blossoms are blue, but you’ll see pink, white, and mixed colors if you look closely. Our favorite place to see Virginia bluebells is on an easy hike at Riverbend Park in Great Falls, Virginia. Scroll down for more great spring wildflower hikes in Northern Virginia.

Bluebells usually bloom in mid-April at Riverbend Park in Northern VA
Bluebell blooms in mid-April at Riverbend Park
Keep an eye out for bluebell color variations like white and pink blooms
Keep an eye out for bluebell color variations like white and pink blooms.
Bluebells in full bloom at Riverbend Park, Great Falls Virginia
Bluebells in full bloom at Riverbend Park, Great Falls Virginia

Trillium

There are red, white, and yellow Trilliums in Virginia, but we have mostly seen the red variety on local walks. Three leaves, three inner leaves, three petals; they’re like a beautiful math formula. On one hike in Shenandoah, we saw the pink Trillium below.

A helpful reader shared this tip on our Facebook page: “By far the most popular springtime activity on the Thompson Wildlife Management Area is viewing wildflowers where, at the higher elevations, a remarkable display of large-flowered trillium occurs.”

Two red Trillium at Riverbend Park in Northern VA
Two red Trillium at Riverbend Park in Northern VA
A cluster of red trillium in Northern Virginia
A cluster of red trillium in Northern Virginia
A pink Trillium in Shenandoah National Park
A pink Trillium in Shenandoah National Park

Dutchman’s Breeches

Adorably shaped and named, these white blooms generally last several weeks.

Dutchmans Breeches at Riverbend Park in Northern Virginia
Dutchmans Breeches in Northern Virginia

Bloodroot

Creepily named, but lovely and delicate, these white flowers really stand out in a leaf-covered forest.

A cluster of Bloodroot at Riverbend Park
Bloodroot at Riverbend Park
A solitary Bloodroot at Riverbend Park
Solitary Bloodroot at Riverbend Park

Trout Lily and Toothwort

The yellow Trout Lily bloom and are gone in a flash, but Toothwort stays around for a while. The second picture gives a better view of the speckled leaves of the Trout Lily.

Trout Lily and Cutleaf Toothwort beside the trail
Trout Lily and Cutleaf Toothwort

Trout Lily leaves are speckled

Spring Beauty

These delicate pink and white flowers grow in profusion along northern portions of the Potomac Heritage Trail at Riverbend and Seneca Regional Park. They are so pretty!

Spring Beauty wildflowers in Northern Virginia
Spring Beauty wildflowers in Northern Virginia
Spring Beauty at Seneca Regional Park
Spring Beauty at Seneca Regional Park

Wild Blue Phlox

Growing in masses along the Potomac Heritage Trail in Spring, phlox looks beautiful when mixed in with the bluebells.

Wild blue phlox and bluebells
Wild blue phlox and bluebells

Wild Blue Phlox in Seneca Regional Park Northern Virginia

Mountain Laurel

In early June, Mountain Laurel crowds trails at higher elevations with beautiful white blooms. The shape of the flower is lovely even before the petals emerge. You’ll find large patches of mountain laurel on two of our favorite Northern Virginia hikes: Sugarloaf Mountain Hike to Maryland Views and Big Devils Stairs Hike to a View in Shenandoah National Park Virginia.

Mountain Laurel on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland
Mountain Laurel beginning to bloom on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland
Mountain Laurel in bloom on Sugarloaf Mountain
Mountain Laurel in bloom on Sugarloaf Mountain

More Wildflowers and Growing Things in Northern VA

Spring wildflowers are not the only interesting things growing along Virginia trails. Keep an eye out for these other plants throughout the Virginia growing season.

Common Milkweed

Butterfly lovers know that milkweed leaves are the essential diet for monarch butterfly larvae. Happily, this summer flower is also beautiful to look at, and the buds are almost as interesting as the blooms. Milkweed likes swampy areas, and we see it along the Washington and Old Dominion Bridle Trail in Vienna every year.

Common Milkweed buds along the W&OD bridle trail in Vienna
Common Milkweed buds along the W&OD bridle trail
Common Milkweed blooms in Virginia
Common Milkweed blooms in Virginia

Joe Pye Weed

Here’s a late summer bloom that likes damp places. Joe Pye Weed is also a magnet for butterflies which makes it extra photogenic. There is a nice cluster of Joe Pye near the boat ramp at Audubon Lake in Reston.

Joe Pye Weed blooms in summer at Lake Audubon, Reston
Joe Pye Weed blooms in summer at Lake Audubon, Reston

Polypore Mushrooms

I know they aren’t wildflowers, but these polypore mushrooms are also beautiful. I think the smaller mushrooms on the log are a type of polypore called Turkey Tail, but hopefully, someone will comment if I’ve got that wrong.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms along a trail in Northern Virginia
Turkey Tail Mushrooms along a trail in Northern Virginia
Polypore mushroom
Polypore mushroom

Fiddlehead Ferns

I know, also not a wildflower, but fiddleheads are so cool they are worth looking for. They almost look like little seashells.

Fiddlehead Ferns at Riverbend Park Virginia
Fiddlehead Ferns at Riverbend Park Virginia

Flying Things

With so many beautiful birds around, be sure to take a break from looking at plants to look up in the trees. Here’s a big Pileated Woodpecker that was hammering away above the trail at Scott’s Run. A hiking family walked right under it but, sadly, never looked up to see this beauty.

Pileated woodpecker Scotts Run; Photo credit: Katherine McCool
Pileated woodpecker Scotts Run; Photo credit: Katherine McCool

You’ll also see lots of butterflies fluttering around the banks of the Potomac. Remember to stop and stand still every once in a while; it’s amazing what you’ll see.

Butterfly at Great Falls Park

Where to Find Spring Wildflowers in Northern Virginia

A look at bluebells and other Spring wildflowers in bloom throughout Northern Virginia and favorite walks for enjoying these short-lived Spring beauties.Here are some of our favorite hikes for enjoying spring wildflowers in Northern Virginia. They are abundant along the sandier banks of the Potomac River and other stream valleys. Click the link for hike info and location details.

We’d love to hear what spring wildflowers you have seen in Northern Virginia. Please share your tips on favorite trails and places for a flowery spring wildflower hike in the comments below.

Spring Wildflowers and where to find them in the Northern Virginia and Washington DC area.

This article was published in 2018 and updated in 2020.

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12 thoughts on “Spring Wildflowers and Where to Find Them in Northern Virginia”

  1. Pingback: Spring Wildflowers and Where to Find Them in Northern Virginia - Voyage Love
  2. I love flowers and seeing these pictures makes me smile! I particularly love the unknown one you think looks like Phlox. Very cool. And good for you for educating yourself on flowers and plants. I wish I knew this stuff!

    Reply
  3. Gorgeous, and informative. I really like the Trillium.The Dutchman’s Breeches are prevalent in the Smokies as well. Your review of the Loyd-Wright properties was excellent. Falling Water is my dream. #93 must have been very moving. Wishing you the best from down south.
    -d.

    Reply

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