Nature’s garden

Many of our favorite hiking spots have been closed off, though technically the trails are not, but roads accessing them and parking lots are. Several weeks ago, just into this current crisis, I lamented that a favorite section of the Appalachian Trail bordered by trilliums might not be accessible, and sure enough it isn’t unless my wife and I should find the energy to hike ten miles in, then out. But, there is no prohibition against getting out into the forest, so we do, and though we encounter more hikers than in the past, a handful of other hikers every hour hardly qualifies as a crowd. We have no problem keeping our distance.

Sections of this trail are bordered by thousands of pink and white trilliums, mayapples, geraniums and other ephemerals.

While I am quite happy to leisurely stroll through the garden, nearby mountains beckon for a more strenuous workout, and a bit of inspiration. So, forced to look elsewhere, my wife and I stumbled upon a trail with many more trilliums (uncountable millions to my eye), and an amazing assortment of spring blooms. Early spring is the prime season for flowering trees and ephemerals in local forests, before the woody shrubs and the tree canopy blocks much of the sunlight, and along an otherwise very ordinary stretch of the Appalachian Trail the forest is carpeted by an abundance of blooms to rival any garden.

Pink and white flowered trilliums as far as the eye can see.
Inexplicably, I am a fan of mayapples with natives in the forest bordering the garden and handfuls of Asian variations. Along this trail are more variations of the native mayapple than I’ve seen, with this dark splotched leaf the most unique.
The mayapple’s flower is hidden beneath the broad leaf.
In some areas trilliums and mayapples are mixed. In others, one or the other is predominant.
Handfuls of trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) are planted in the garden, but for a stretch of a quarter mile both sides of the trail were carpeted by small ones not flowering yet, and more mature plants in bloom. Peak flowering for trout lilies was a week before there were many trilliums blooming, but this one nestled into a tree trunk remained in flower.
Flowers of the native geraniums coincide with the second half of the trillium blooming cycle.
The unusual bear corn, or squawroot, is a parasitic perennial on the roots of oaks.
Star chickweed was not seen the previous week, but it is common along the trail.
Yellow and purple violets line the trails, looking much like a suburban landscape with a walkway bordered by multicolored pansies.
Yellow Lady Slipper orchids are not flowering yet. We’ll be back next week.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Linus says:

    Any chance the spotted may apple can somehow be related to Spotty Dotty? (Either hybrid with native species or escapee?)

    1. Dave says:

      I suspect this is a natural variation of the native. My wife stands patiently as I examine variations in leaf forms and color that are abundant in this area with so many thousands.

  2. tonytomeo says:

    Eastern and Midwestern wildflowers are so much more fun. There are a few trilliums here, and at least one is native as far East as Colorado, but none of them are much to look at here. They are prettier farther north. I believe that there are at least three species here. I know of only two. However, some insist that there is only one.

    1. Dave says:

      We hear that there are red trilliums out here somewhere, but we haven’t seen them. Still, it’s hard to be disappointed with a million pink and white trilliums.

      1. tonytomeo says:

        One of the natives here is a red trillium, but it is not the same as the real ‘red trillium’. Nor is it as pretty. The flowers are quite small, and deteriorate as soon as they open. They are dark reddish brown.

  3. Vijaya Kripanandan says:

    Thanks for naming some of the plants we encountered on our memorial day hike at Lost Mountain trail.
    We found a few bearcorns and they look interesting. have never seen one before.
    However we did not find any Trilliums 😦
    Any suggestions for trails with pretty spring flowers.

    1. Dave says:

      My wife and I have seen scattered areas of wildflowers along the Appalachian Trail, but nothing close to the abundance on the AT in the Thompson Wildlife Management Area which is just a few miles south of Sky Meadows. Trilliums and other spring ephemerals are past now, but this is fertile ground and I expect others through the spring.

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