A discussion on Facebook a few days ago reminded me that the Collins Gulf area of Savage Gulch State Natural Area in Grundy County, TN was on my list of areas I wanted to check out for wildflowers. Originally I had targeted it because of reports of Fringed Phacelia (Phacelia fimbriata), but when I photographed that species in the Smokies, Collins Gulf got bumped down a few places on my list. But I wanted to get into a wilderness with my grandson while he was on spring break this week, so I bumped it back up. Checking the weather, Tuesday, April 4, was forecast as the best day, and this time the weatherman was right – rain on Monday gave us good water for the waterfalls, and a beautiful, sunny day showed up Tuesday morning – as forecast. Grandson Joseph and I headed out about 9 AM for the 50-mile drive to the Collins Gulf West Trailhead of Savage Gulch, for Waterfalls and Wildflowers (31 species; see the list at the end of the post.)
The Pocket is in full swing with most of its signature species in bloom, although with the exception of a single plant, we saw no Bloodroot blooming today. We lost a species or two, but what has started blooming since my last trip (3/17) more than made up for it, starting with the Bent White Trillium (Trillium flexipes.) Probably the big surprise for me was that we still had many Dutchman’s Breeches still blooming – since early March! I don’t remember a previous 3-week+ bloom season for this plant at The Pocket.
I always get surprises when I go to The Pocket. Today was no exception, except that since things started blooming so much earlier than usual this year (Hepatica in January!), I was expecting the “early season” to continue – expecting some of the earlier species to be gone, and frankly I was expecting to see the Bent White Trillium blooming. However, with the exception of Lindera benzoin (Spicebush), ALL of the early species were still blooming. So with all those earlier ones, and a few more added this trip, I found 30 species in flower this trip. And those Bent White Trillium, while close, are not yet blooming. It seems the wildflowers at The Pocket are now closer to “normal schedule” than “really early.”
This will likely be my last status update on wildflowers at The Pocket this season. The overstory is filling out, and the leafy understory is blocking what sun makes it through the leaves on the trees, so the spring ephemeral season is drawing to a close. From a species count – this time I counted 39 species blooming – it seems to be active, but most of those are in definite decline. This would be a particularly good time to come if you want to catch some of those species in fruit. The massive display of Bent White Trillium (Trillium flexipes) is still on, but it and most other species are past their peak.
I’d seen (on Facebook) and heard (passerby on Chestnut Top Trail in the Smokies a week or so ago) about Piney River Trail near Spring City. Due to some cancelled plans, Friday, 04/08/2016 became available, so even though the weather was sketchy, I decided to drive the 65 miles to the trail to check it out for myself. It exceeded expectations both for wildflowers, and for simply being a fun, beautiful trail.
Another hiatus from The Pocket of almost 2 weeks. Repeating from the last report – “Even more species are blooming now than two weeks ago.” This time I counted 40 species blooming, including one I don’t recall ever seeing down there before – Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata.) But the show is the massive display of Bent White Trillium (Trillium flexipes) – nearly every plant I saw had an open blossom, and the hillside was covered with them in many places.
It had been a couple of years since I had walked in Gee Creek Wilderness. Since it was spring break for some of my grandkids, the spring ephemerals were in full swing, and it promised to be good weather, I headed to Gee Creek with two of my grandsons (Noah and Philip) for a walk along the creek on Friday, April 1, 2016.