How to Identify Woodland Flowers


Many wildflowers have the ability to thrive in the full or partial shade of a woodland habitat. You can identify several of these woodland flower species by their colors, shapes and other characteristics. Among the most common are the cardinal flower, trilliums, trailing arbutus, bellworts and Dutchman's breeches. Each of these woodland flowers has certain features that will enable you to recognize them, once you train your eye.

Step 1

Recognize the cardinal flower by its brilliant red tube-like blossoms. Look for a tall plant that has these red flowers arranged vertically on a stalk that can be as high as 4 feet. You will typically find this plant along the banks of rivers and streams, as it favors moist soils. It has three red lower petals and two red upper ones. Refrain from picking cardinal flowers, as they are increasingly uncommon due to people finding them attractive enough to want to take home.

Step 2

When identifying a trillium species, remember that everything about a trillium, of which there are 42 varieties, is in threes, with three separate leaflets and a three-petaled flower that blooms on a plant about a foot tall. Trilliums need rich soil to prosper and are in the eastern United States as well as the mountainous areas of the western states. Trilliums range on color from white to a deep purple shade.

Step 3

The evergreen leaves of the trailing arbutus is noted by its pleasant-smelling leaves. The plant grows low to the ground and develops from an elaborate system of stems that creates a sort of mat along the ground. Also called the mayflower, it is less than 6 inches high and it is one of spring's earliest bloomers. Notice that the white or the pinkish flowers, which resemble tiny trumpets, will also have a very pleasing aroma to them.

Step 4

Distinguish bellworts by their shape, which causes the flower to look like a hanging bell. The flower grows on a stalk between 6 and 18 inches tall in woodland soil and the flower droops down like a bell. Colors can vary from creamy white to yellow. The leaves of some common types of bellworts appear as if the stem pierced through them as the plant developed.

Step 5

Identify Dutchman's breeches by their unique shape and the leaves that look like those of ferns. The cream-colored flowers look like a pair of tiny pants hanging upside down and grow in clusters on a naked thickened stem above the leaves, with the stem being up to 1 foot tall.


  • Plant Database
  • "Flowers";Herbert Zim and Alexander Martin; 1987
Keywords: woodland flowers, identfy trilliums, Dutchman's breeches

About this Author

John has written thousands of articles for Demand Studios, Associated Content and The Greyhound Review. A Connecticut native, John has written extensively about sports, fishing, and nature.