Flowers Everywhere

BRDC Whitetop Mtn. wildflower walk participants.

“They’re everywhere!”
Over and over I heard various wildflower enthusiasts repeat this phrase as they viewed the unending masses of early spring blooms that decorated the forest floor on Sunday, May 1.

Twenty-three of us joined Blue Ridge Discovery Center’s hike along the segment of the Appalachian Trail from Virginia’s Whitetop Mountain to Elk Garden two and a half miles below.

The never-ending flowers we witnessed on the mountain created an artist’s mosaic of colors.

Frilly chartreuse green rose above deep night green. Bright magenta and dark burgundy pointed skyward above cushions of rounded, green triangles. Soft pink nestled against protecting boulders and fallen trees. Speckles of white winked throughout the rolling mountainside. Sunny, golden yellow outshined its creamy, buttery cousin. Brilliant blue randomly broke the mosaic.

My camera captured personal glimpses of what we saw.

We saw Dutchman's breeches and squirrel corn which are sometimes difficult to tell apart unless they grow near each other. Both of the flowers hang upside down on the flower stem. Think of the legs of the Dutchman's breeches as looking like those of a saddle-sore cowboy with pointed legs. His breeches have a yellow waistband. The top of the squirrel corn looks like the rounded top of a Valentine, and the whole bloom looks a bit like a baby's pacifier.

The fringed phacelia is listed as "imperiled" by the state of Virginia and is quite uncommon. It blooms in innumerable abundance on Whitetop Mountain.

The bright, hot pink blossoms of the wild geranium added a striking contrast to the white fringed phacelia.

Spring beauty is a dainty plant whose flowers are usually pale, but this one has lots of color.

The golden, yellow trout lilies, whether they grew as single plants or as part of large colonies, stood out on Whitetop Mountain.

The colors of various trillium blended with the other wildflowers.

We also saw many foam flowers, and their spikes swayed gently in the breeze.

As we continued down Whitetop Mountain to the end of our hike at Elk Garden, we saw what a difference elevation could have on bloom time. At the top, there had been no yellow mandarin blooms, but near Elk Garden the blooms had begun to unfurl.

Text and Photographs by Cecelia Butler Mathis