Wildflower welcome: Freedom Park is an oasis of Florida nature in spring

Freedom Park is a surprising piece of forest and water, a quiet and soothing place for a morning walk just east of Goodlette-Frank Road.

J.C. Heithaus/Special to the Daily News

Freedom Park is a surprising piece of forest and water, a quiet and soothing place for a morning walk just east of Goodlette-Frank Road.

Freedom Park

1515 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples, FL

— A search that once took you out to CREW or on a ranger-led hike at Collier Seminole State Park can be satisfied now within walking distance of Coastland Center. Freedom Park, off Golden Gate Parkway just east of Goodlette-Frank Road, has all kinds of natural as well as cultivated flora throughout its half-mile or more trails. In April every turn in the trail offered a different family of flower.

An early April stroll yielded no signs identifying the foliage yet. But we have one of the handiest books to take along: a “A Guide to Native Wildflowers of Southwest Florida,” (2009; $22.95) by Gary Schmelz, Ph.D., and Glen Stacell, both of Naples. The two authors/photographers have been watching wildflowers here for more than 35 years, and their thorough book wisely catalogs them by color, which is the way most of us first become aware of them.

The book has everything: photos of each flower with both common and botanical names and habitats, a list of native-plant nurseries in Southwest Florida and even a screensaver disc of area blooms packaged in the back. Buy the book at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida; the gift shops at Naples Botanical Gardens, the Naples Zoo; the Jay and Patty Baker Naples Museum of Art and Sunshine Booksellers on Marco Island.

Here are some — but not all — of the blooms that were out in April along the trails.

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