Spring has gotten off in fits and starts lately, but thats actually pretty typical. I saw snow in the air last Sunday. Anything goes in April. My daffodils are ready to burst forth. Theyre about two inches high and make me think of a runner on the starting block, ready to leap. As soon as the next mild spell hits I predict a surge of growth in our gardens. Watch your step In addition to the non-native daffodils, all kinds of native wildflowers will soon be popping up, too. Its tricky because you need to be careful walking on the soft ground in your hunt to see native wildflowers. Always stay on the paths if youre on a trail and take pictures only, no plant samples! The woodland wildflowers are quite fussy about their growing site so do not collect them from the wild. Youre not only depleting the native population and violating various trespass laws when you dig up wildflowers, but most wildflowers dug from the wild die from the shock so its a waste of time and plant. A few are protected from collection but its not a good idea to collect any woodland wildflowers, even if they arent protected. Plants grown in nursery pots will be much better able to recover from transplant shock and adapt to your site than those dug from the wild. Woodland wildflowers are gorgeous. But any flowers you pluck will wilt before you get home. They are fussy plants and make very poor cutflowers. And, by removing the flower, you are removing the plants chance at reproduction and survival. So bring your camera and take lots of pictures but please leave the flowers and the plants where they are! A good resource If youd like to add wildflowers to your yard or garden, purchase them from nurseries and ask to make sure they are propagated plants, rather than plants collected from the wild. Some of our local nurseries carry woodland wildflowers as well as the New England Wildflower Societys Garden in the Woods. An excellent, very readable book is: The New England Wildflower Society Guide to Growing and Propagating Wildflowers by William Cullina. The author is the nursery manager and propagator at the Society which is one of the best known plant conservation organizations in North America. Botanic gardens In addition to walking on our many local hiking trails looking for flowers in bloom, a great way to learn more is to visit botanic gardens where plants are labeled and a lot of information is available. The Montreal Botanic Garden is an amazing resource and makes an easy day trip for our region. New York City has wonderful botanic gardens both in Brooklyn and the Bronx. One of the best known collections of native wildflowers is not that far from us. Its the aforementioned New England Wildflower Society. Dont be put off by New England; their mission is to study and protect all wildflowers in temperate North America. They are located just west of Boston in Framingham and have a 45-acre living museum featuring more than 1,500 native species of plants called The Garden in the Woods. They have bog, woodland, pine barren, alpine and pond plantings as well as classes and an extensive list of publications. Visit their Web site at www.newfs.org. Or just take a hike, treading carefully, on any of our local mountain paths and watch the native flowers emerge. Amy Ivy is executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. Cornell Cooperative Extension offices may be reached in Clinton County at 561-7450, and Essex County, 962-4810. More information may be found on-line at http://ecgardening.cce.cornell.edu or by sending an e-mail to a Master Gardener volunteer at askMG@cornell.edu.