To avoid crowds like those that were on the Shirley Miller Trail at The Pocket on Pigeon Mountain last week, I headed down there early Saturday morning, arriving at the parking area shortly after 8 AM. The sky was overcast, but the wind was low – a good situation for wildflower photography. My first stop was the dogwood tree beside the parking area.
The dogwood trees had previously seemed to be blooming – the green-turning-white petals with the green-turning-yellow centered flower had been out for a couple of weeks now. Of course, many folks know that the ‘blossom’ I just described isn’t the blossom at all. The white ‘petals’ are really bracts – leaflets – and the yellow center of the ‘blossom’ is really the cluster of flowers. Each flower in that cluster, when fully opened, has four yellow petals, stamen, and a pistil. These little flowers can be seen in the photo below as well as in the cover photo for this article.
The list of Shirley Miller Trail area wildflowers for this week:
- Baneberry: On my quick walk along the Shirley Miller Trail, I didn’t notice baneberry. I don’t know if they have finished blooming, or if I just missed them.
- Bellwort: Easy to find; some plants are forming their interesting seeds.
- Blue cohosh: Still Blooming.
- * Blue-eyed grass: Just starting to flower along the horse trail.
- Blue phlox: Very abundant and beautiful, but I think they are starting their decline.
- Chickweed: Continuing to bloom profusely.
- Columbine: I’m going to call “peak” on the columbine. Beautiful, and abundant up around the falls.
- Cumberland spurge: These have been blooming for a couple of weeks along the horse trail, but it took me a little while to come up with an identification, and they’re also pretty easy to overlook.
- * Dwarf Cinquefoil: This is blooming along the trail above the falls.
- Foamflower: The flower head all seems to be fully open now. Hurry if you want to see them.
- Hyacinth: Most plants many blossoms open on the clusters, but also many buds not yet open.
- Iris: Still easy to find good specimens of crested dwarf iris along the horse trail, but last week they seemed to be at their fresh, crisp best.
- Jack in the Pulpit: “Peak!” Many fully-formed plants along the boardwalk and elsewhere in the vicinity.
- Mandarin: “Peak!” There are many of these blooming along the Shirley Miller trail.
- Purple phacelia: Still beautiful, but definitely in decline.
- Rue anemone: Fewer than a week ago; getting a bit harder to find, and the ones I noticed are smaller.
- Solomon’s seal: Many with little buds starting on them, but I saw no bells open along the stem yet.
- Stonecrop: Abundant and at peak or just after.
- Squawroot: This very interesting plant is still blooming.
- Toadshade / Sweet Betsy: Both are blooming. The decline for these long-blooming flowers is starting, but beautiful specimens are still easy to find.
- Toothworts: Interestingly there appears to be a later species starting to bloom now. I noticed several really nice colonies with fresh blossoms.
- Trailing trillium: Still abundant.
- Trillium (White): Bent trillium – Trillium flexipes – are at their peak, and definitely the show to see along the trail, especially up past the end of the boardwalk.
- Virginia bluebell: This lovely flower, a signature blossom for the Shirley Miller Trail, is almost gone.
- Wild geranium: Still numerous everywhere, but definitely starting their decline.
- Wood Betony: The population along the driveway down to the beginning of the boardwalk have a deeper red on the yellow blossoms now.
- Wood (celandine) poppy: Still numerous, but past peak. The newly forming seed pods are more common than the yellow blossoms.
- Violets: All of the below violets are still abundant, with the Canada violets dominating areas of the forest.
- Canada violets
- Common blue violet
- Downy yellow violet
- Long-spurred violets
* First spotting of the blossom this year.
There were several other plants blooming or starting to bloom for which I don’t have a firm identification. Particularly nice is what I think is a yellow aster which started blooming along the horse trail a couple of weeks ago, but is more apparent now, making nice clusters of yellow as you look down toward the creek and falls from the horse trail.