WICHITA MTS. WILDLIFE REFUGE, Okla. -- It is the most colorful time of year in the Wichita Mountains.
From May to early June the yellow flowers, Corylopsis, Black Eyed Susan, and Sneeze Weeds color the granite hillsides of the refuge.
"I remember Sneeze Weeds because the petals look as though someone sneezed on them," remarks longtime refuge volunteer Helen Ridley.
Ridley's favorite long walks take her through the cool winter months, but for color, there is nothing like what the rains bring in springtime.
"Wildflowers are mainly found on the granite exposures," she says. "There are lots of wildflowers in the open prairie areas but they're harder to see."
Of the dozens of wildflower varieties springing up through cracks in the rocks and in the prairie pastures here, Helen can identify even the smallest.
She points out the stonecrop, and Least Daisies, the purple Barrel Cactus or Wichita Pin Cushion.
"It's considered to be unique to these mountains," she says.
Then she shows us bluish flowers known as Ohio Spiderwort.
Then Ridley gestures to the Milkweed.
Most people know the Indian Blanket and the official state wildflower Indian Paintbrush.
They form the deep reds that catch the eye, and, this year, linger a little longer than usual.
Ridley says, "When we have years with rain the wildflowers tend to be prettier. But we always have the variety."
The refuge hosts regular wildflower walks and hikes this time of year.
Helen Ridley takes her charges to a field near Baldy Peak.
She suggests Quitone Point below Mt. Scott as one of the better places to see the meadows explode with color.
In 2019, plentiful rain and cool weather mean the prairies are alive with wildflowers a little later, and, thankfully, for just a little while longer.
For information on what's happening at the refuge, click here.