For seven years, the Headwaters Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists has organized wildflower walks on Shenandoah Mountain in the George Washington National Forest that cuts across the western side of Augusta and Rockingham Counties. What started as a cohort project, has grown into a tradition for some families and groups of friends. It offers a way to highlight the fleeting and beautiful flower diversity that gives meaning to the spring season by admiring the bright pinks and purples of gay wings and violets, the subtle whites and greens of the wood anemone and wild ginger, and the color of spring flowers in contrast to the browns and beiges of the receding winter.
A record 90 people registered for the free walks on April 27th making 2019 the most attended day of walks yet. While there were slight variations in the species and numbers of wildflowers observed by each group, what people seem to really enjoy is getting out into the woods on a sunny day, sharing time with others in pursuit of a familiar favorite like fringed polygala (gay wings) scattered among the fallen leaves, long spur violet peeking out from the low grasses at the edge of the woods or Carolina pinks clinging to the rock face in the bright sun.
Here is a sample of the flowers seen on the walks:
Common blue violet
Downy rattlesnake weed
Downy yellow violet
Fringed orchid (emerging, not flowering until end of June)
Gaywing (fringed polygala)
Jack in the pulpit
Small white violet
Smooth yellow violet
Sweet white violet
Wake Robin trillium
white wood aster
Wild azalea (emerging)
Wild grape (NB)
Yellow halberd violet
(NB)=not in bloom
Thanks to our co-sponsors, Friends of Shenandoah Mountain, who have worked long and hard to protect the woods and waters that feed our flowers and provide a place to come together in celebration of forest diversity.
Thanks to all of the volunteers who helped to organize, promote, scout trails, and lead these walks:
For images of the 2019 Wildflower Walks, see the photo album on the Headwaters Master Naturalist Facebook group page HERE.
If you are a Headwaters Master Naturalist and want to be involved in planning, organizing, promoting, or leading a walk, please contact us as shenmtnwldflwrs [at] gmail.com!
Hope to see you on the trail next year, April 25th!
– Chip Brown, HMN Wildflower Walks coordinator, April 2019
Top photo is by Andrea Dono, Cohort VI, at the North River Campground Area. Photo below is by Lynn Cameron of organizer Chip at the upper Hone Quarry falls. Upper flower photo of gay wings is by Carl Droms at the North River Campground Area. Lower flower photo is by Lynn Cameron of wake robin trillium along the Hone Quarry Falls Trail.