Wildflower Report

Wildflower Report, April 20, 2017

By Dr. Annkatrin Rose, Department of Biology, Appalachian State University

What a difference a week can make at this time of the year! With the spring rains and warmer weather, the wildflowers are up in full force and heading for peak bloom around Boone now. All the usual suspects are making their appearance, including trilliums, bellworts, mayflowers, trout lilies and lots of others. The Fringed Phacelia along the Profile Trail was coming in strong last weekend and could quite possible be at peak bloom this weekend. The Large White Trilliums have started as well at the Daniel Boone Native Gardens and in our Nature Preserve. At this time, you can find a great variety of plants in bloom.

This is the best time of the year to look for wildflowers, and it just so happens to be our Spring Open House at the university this Saturday as well! If you’re coming into town for it, stop by at the Biology building for a tour and join us for a walk through the Nature Preserve on campus. Tours of the department will be going on from 9:30 AM to 1 PM and we’ll head out for the hike in the woods from 1 PM to 3 PM. Meeting point is the lobby of the Rankin Science Building (at the Geology Museum). There is a chance of thunderstorms, so come prepared for rain and muddy trails. Even if it’s too stormy to do the hike, you will still be able to pick up some information about the Nature Preserve including a trail map to explore it later on your own time when the weather is better.

Lower elevation trails are now alive with wildflowers. I went on a wildflower walk along the Profile Trail at Grandfather Mountain State Park last weekend and most of the spring ephemerals had arrived on the scene with plenty of blooms. This is one of the best trails in the area to check out for wildflowers and you don’t have to walk far to see them. Just along the first stretch of the trail near the parking lot, you can find a great variety of plants in bloom. The Spring Beauties (Claytonia caroliniana) are still nice, while the Liverleaf (Hepatica acutiloba) flowers are already fading away for the year. Other plants have just started their big show. Particularly noticeable is the Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera) with its pink flowers and the Fringed Phacelia (Phacelia fimbriata). Make sure to check the phacelia flowers up close – they look like snowflakes and when they’re at peak bloom it will look like snow is covering the ground. They are joined by Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera), Southern Red Trillium (Trillium sulcatum), Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis) and Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), Canada Violet (Viola canadensis), and more. Other plants I’ve seen in bloom along the first mile of the trail include Bishop’s Cap (Mitella diphylla), Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia), lots of Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum), Large-Flowered Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora), and the first of the Fairy Bells (Prosartes lanuginosa). The Foamflowers (Tiarella cordifolia) and Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) had buds that should have opened up by this weekend to join the bloomers. Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) is adding its showy white flowers to the understory.

If you’re taking a drive along the Parkway, you’ll notice lots of trees in bloom at this time as well. You can easily spot the white flowers of Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) and Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida), the pink-purple of the Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), and the first of the large flowers opening up on the Mountain Magnolias (Magnolia fraseri). The Red Maples (Acer rubrum) are pretty much done blooming and showing off their developing red seed pods. If you stop at an overlook, you can see the new spring growth greening up the valleys and making its way up the mountain slopes. Great long-distance views are available if you are willing to hike just a little bit up the trail, for example at Rough Ridge, Beacon Heights, or Flat Rock. All three of these places along the Parkway offer very scenic views in reward for just a short hike uphill. If you’d rather stay close to Boone and inside the car, Thunderhills Overlook north of US 221 near Blowing Rock and Grandview Overlook south of Old 421 in Deep Gap have great long-distance view and are worth a stop. (Note that there is a section of Parkway closed due to a rock slide just north of Grandview Overlook, so take Old 421 instead of US 421 to get on the Parkway.)

In addition to our tour of the Nature Preserve on campus, you can join several guided hikes again this weekend at Grandfather Mountain State Park to see and identify what’s blooming. There will be a hike along the Nuwati Trail on Friday and walks along the Profile Trail on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. All of these are free and open to the public. You can find more details and other events at the NC State Park website.

Pictures: Trout Lilies, Creeping Phlox and Fringed Phacelia along the Profile Trail at Grandfather Mountain State Park on Easter Sunday


Wildflower Report, April 13, 2017

By Dr. Annkatrin Rose, Department of Biology, Appalachian State University

The number and variety of plants blooming in the woods keeps increasing with every day at this time of the year. However, we’re still some time away from peak wildflower bloom in the Boone area. The colder days last weekend have caused a little bit of a delay, but with the warmer weather now and more spring rains coming up to water the plants, we should be seeing spring growth speeding up. The best areas to look for wildflowers are still the lower elevations at this point with not much blooming yet higher up in the mountains.

In addition to the spring beauties, bloodroots and toothworts blooming, I found more violets and star chickweed at the Nature Preserve on campus. Toadshades are blooming at the Daniel Boone Native Gardens with other trilliums sending up their foliage, and Dutchman’s breeches along the Profile Trail on Grandfather Mountain are showing flower buds. Trout lily leaves are coming up it seems everywhere and I’ve heard reports of the first flowers. Fraser’s sedge, Pennsylvania sedge, and seersucker sedge are all in bloom right now, and so are many of the wind-pollinated trees as anyone with spring allergies can probably tell you.

If you would like to get out and see the first bloomers with a guide, there are again several wildflower walks offered this weekend at Grandfather Mountain State Park. Next weekend (April 22) the Biology Department will host a guided tour of the ASU Nature Preserve on campus following Open House. By that time, there should be plenty of wildflowers to see along the trail. If you have any questions about this event, please contact me at rosea@appstate.edu.

Pictures: Round-leaved Yellow Violet (Viola rotundifolia), Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera) and Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea) in bloom this week at the ASU Nature Preserve


Wildflower Report, April 6, 2017

The start of this year felt and looked like spring was arriving four weeks early in the High Country. Unfortunately, the ornamental cherries and magnolias on campus that started blooming at the end of February lost their flowers in the early March freeze we had. Fortunately though, the wildflowers were not affected by the unusually warm late winter temperatures followed by the deep freeze. They may still be a bit earlier than average this year but much closer to their normal schedule up here in the mountains. Easter weekend to early May should be a good time to plan some hikes to see the spring wildflowers around Boone.

The early bloomers I have seen out so far in the woods include liverleaf (Hepatica acutiloba), spring beauty (Claytonia caroliniana), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), cutleaf toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), and the first yellow violets (mostly Viola hastata). Other plants have their foliage up and are budding but no flowers yet, so more blooms will be coming over the next couple of weeks.

If you would like to join a guided hike this spring to see the wildflowers and get to know what they are, there are plenty of opportunities coming up!

Next week (April 11-15) is the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (https://www.springwildflowerpilgrimage.org/), where several of our faculty traditionally participate as hike leaders. Being a little further south, the Smokies are usually ahead of the High Country around Boone in terms of peak bloom time, so it should be a great wildflower show next week.

Closer to Boone, Grandfather Mountain State Park is holding a series of ranger-guided Spring Wildflower Walks. They will have several walks every weekend through April and these are a great opportunity to keep up with the progression of blooms. Some of our wildflowers bloom for just a short period of time, so the forest floor looks different from week to week. You can find a list of these walks (and other wildflower-related events) on my web page at: http://www.appstate.edu/~rosea/wildflower.html

The Biology Department will again host a guided tour of the ASU Nature Preserve on campus following Open House on Saturday, April 22. This area has a great variety of wildflowers at this time of the year. We’ll meet at 1 PM in front of the Geology Museum in the lobby of Rankin Science South and walk from there. If you would like to join the walk at the entrance to the Nature Preserve in the Greenwood Parking Lot (near the Chancellor’s house) further up the mountain, please let me know at rosea@appstate.edu.

The following weekend, faculty and students from the Biology Department will participate in leading wildflower, bird and pollinator walks at the Daniel Boone Native Gardens’ annual plant sale fundraiser on Saturday, April 29, from 9 AM to 1 PM (http://danielboonenativegardens.org/wildflower-walk--plant-sale-pd-34.php). Our Greenhouse Manager along with students and volunteers have also been busy all year propagating native plants from seeds at the Biology Greenhouse for this sale. If you’re looking for some wildflowers to plant in your yard, plan on stopping by!

In early May, the North Carolina Native Plant Society will be holding their Spring Outing right here in Boone (http://ncwildflower.org/ncnps/event_details/2017-spring-outing). Again, several of our faculty are participating either by giving talks or leading hikes (or both). This event would be a great opportunity to get in touch with other wildflower enthusiasts from all over North Carolina.


Pictures: Cutleaf Toothwort, Spring Beauties and Halberd-leaved Yellow Violet from Grandfather Mountain State Park

Featured Faculty

For the Fall 2016 installment of our Featured Faculty series, we sat down with Dr. Mary Kinkel, an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department, who specializes in Developmental Biology. Her philosophy of teaching and a short description of her research make for fascinating read! 

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