Wildflower Report: Sitton’s Gulch, Cloudland Canyon State Park

The Georgia Botanical Society made their trip to Cloudland Canyon State Park on Saturday, April 11, and I saw their photo report on Facebook. That, and a report from Richard Ware’s Sunday trip to the same location, inspired me to take advantage of a break in this week’s rain on Tuesday to get back over to Sitton’s Gulch to see the Dwarf Larkspur, Southern Red Trillium, and other wildflowers. It was a great choice, with at least 34 species of wildflower observed.

Dwarf Larkspur, Spring Larkspur - Delphinium tricorne

Dwarf Larkspur – Delphinium tricorne – Unusual blue form along Sitton Gulch Trail side loop

The rest of the story…

Sitton’s Gulch Trail runs for 2.5 miles from the bridge across the creek below the lower falls on the half-mile Falls Trail down the mountain to the exit of SItton’s Gulch into the valley near Trenton, Georgia. If you are going from the Trenton end of the trail up the mountain (or up-and-back as I did) it can be strenuous. If you’ve got a shuttle available, I recommend that you start at the top in the main overlook parking area of Cloudland Canyon State Park and walk down the mountain to the Sitton’s Gulch parking area. You’ll need a parking pass – I’m not sure you can still purchase those at the Sitton’s Gulch parking lot; check with the park if you don’t have a Georgia Park Pass. There is a side loop that is definitely worth the walk. If you’re doing an out-and-back take one on the way out, and then other on the way back. If you’re doing a one-way and don’t want to back-track, I recommend you take the loop rather than the main trail for the best wildflowering.

Following my pattern for reports on The Pocket, here is a list of what I found blooming along the Sitton’s Gulch Trail and ancillary loop on 4/14/2015, in no particular order (sorry!):

      • Toothwort (Cardamine diphylla?) – I think the 2 or 3 plants I found blooming near the cave west of the parking area was Cardamine diphylla – Crinkleroot, aka Two-leaf Toothwort.
      • Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia caroliniana) – The only place I found these were a scattering of single blossoms in the vicinity the cave opening. I suspect the reason they are still blooming here is because of the cooler air coming out of the cave.
Carolina Spring Beauty, Wide-leaved Spring Beauty - Claytonia caroliniana

Carolina Spring Beauty – Claytonia caroliniana nestled among the ferns

      • Rue Anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) – Quite a few of these around.
      • Woodland Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum) – Peak or very close.
      • Long-spurred Violet (Viola rostrata) – These were all over the place. They seem taller here than at The Pocket.
      • Yellow Violet (Viola pensylvanica, I think) – A few of these scattered around.
      • Three-part Yellow Violet (Viola tripartita) – I saw two of these plants within the first mile of the trail, before starting the ascent.
      • Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) – Quite a few, but not as plentiful as V. canadensis or V. rostrata.
      • Canada Violet (Viola canadensis) – Abundant.
      • Purple Phacelia (Phacelia bipinnatifida) – These are everywhere, but getting past their prime.
Purple Phacelia, Fernleaf Phacelia - Phacelia bipinnatifida

Purple Phacelia – Phacelia bipinnatifida

      • Yellow Mandarin – (Disporum lanuginosum) – I was disappointed in the early part of the trail, but once I started up the mountain, discovered an abundance in peak bloom. There were several plants which had triple flowers. I normally see singles or doubles, so was pretty pumped about this.
      • Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera) – Abundant.
      • Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) – Some plants still blooming, but most flowers are gone.
      • Little Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum) – It seems that along this trail more of these tend toward green or bronze rather than the maroon I see dominate other locations.
      • Trailing Trillium (Trillium decumbens) – Abundant and beautiful.
Trailing Trillium - Trillium decumbens

This Trailing Trillium – Trillium decumbens – had amongst the longest petals I’ve seen on this species. It was among the largest specimens I saw this day.

      • Wild Blue Phox (Phlox divaricata) – Abundant, but most were beat down by 2 days of rain when I went by.
      • Heartleaf Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) – There are still many blooming, but most were starting to form seeds.
      • Geranium (Geranium maculatum) – Many scattered around, especially in the lower elevation.
      • Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) – Saw a dozen or so of these near the cave and scattered along the Sitton’s Gulch Trail.
      • White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) – Several plants blooming along the trail. In most cases they were past their peak, and many had the seeds (still green) starting to form.
      • Roundleaf Ragwort – (Packera obovata) – These were scattered along the trail from top to bottom – at least the stretch that I walked.
      • Cumberland Spurge (Euphorbia mercurialina) – Quite a few of these are blooming along the trail, especially in the lower elevations. You must look closely even to see the “flower”, and then even closer to understand that they are REALLY interesting. Click on the photo below for a larger version of the image; click on the scientific name above to read a little about the cyathium.
Cumberland Spurge, Mercury Spurge - Euphorbia mercurialina

Cumberland Spurge – Euphorbia mercurialina

      • Squawroot (Conopholis americana) – If you can call a “peak” in these understated flowers, it’s probably now. Quite a few scattered communities in lower to middle elevations.
      • Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata) – Many of these beautiful flowers were blooming. Quite a few had taken a beating by the rain.
      • Violet Wood Sorrel (Oxalis violacea) – I saw a few of these blooming along the trail at the lower elevation, and a large patch right by the parking lot.
      • Sweet Anise (Osmorhiza longistylis) – These plants with their tiny white blossoms are just starting to bloom.
      • Hairyjoint Meadow Parsnip (Thaspium barbinode) I found a few of these starting to bloom along the trail.
      • Mayapple  (Podophyllum peltatum) – I thought I’d missed the bloom as I was walking the lower portion of the trail, but as I headed up the mountain discovered that there were large patches at peak bloom.
      • Green Violet (Hybanthus concolor) – I rarely see these in The Pocket although I know they’re there. I wouldn’t have seen these at Sitton’s Gulch (along the west trail to the cave, not along SItton’s Gulch Trail) if Rich Reaves and Richard Ware hadn’t mentioned them.
      • Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) – Most that I saw just had flower buds forming along the underside of their stems, but I did find one plant with flowers formed, with several open.
      • Solomon’s Plume (Maianthemum racemosum) – Magnificently starting their full bloom.
False Solomon's Seal, Feathery False Lily of the Valley, Solomon's Plume - Maianthemum racemosum

False Solomon’s Seal, Feathery False Lily of the Valley, Solomon’s Plume – Maianthemum racemosum

These are a few species that I haven’t seen at The Pocket but are found in Sitton’s Gulch:

  • Dwarf Larkspur (Delphinium tricorne) – This is a great wildflower, but you’ll only see a couple if you stay on the main Sitton’s Gulch Trail. Take the west loop that starts about .3 miles from the parking lot to see more. If you’re doing an out-and-back like I did, you can return by the main trail.
  • Bigseed Forget-me-not (Myosotis macrosperma) – This was a lifer for me. I wouldn’t have known the plant if not for Richard Ware’s photos in his report referenced above.
  • Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila aphylla) – Another lifer thanks to Richard.
  • Southern Red Trillium (Trillium sulcatum) – I thought I might have to take the trail all the way to the lower falls to see these, but fortunately they started showing up well before the junction of the two creeks.
Southern Red Trillium, Barksdale Trillium, Furrowed Wakerobin - Trillium sulcatum

Southern Red Trillium – Trillium sulcatum

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