Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sosebee Cove Trail in Spring

Spring wildflowers are some of the most beautiful native flowers and several groups organize pilgrimages around viewing them. Georgia Botanical Society’s spring wildflower pilgrimage is this weekend, and you can be sure that I am happily tiptoeing through some beautiful sites even as some of you read this. As one of the field trip leaders this year, I made an exploratory trip up to Sosebee Cove in Union County two weeks ago so that I could speak knowledgeably about what we’ll find there.

Yellow mandarin (Prosartes lanuginosa)

Sosebee Cove is a 175-acre area in the Chattahoochee National Forest located between Vogel State Park and Wolfpen Gap on Hwy Georgia 180. There is a very easy trail that makes a figure 8 loop, allowing visitors and photographers to see some beautiful flowers up close. Although this is actually a second growth forest (it was last logged around 115 years ago in 1900), the state champion yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava) is found here as is one of the tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera) co-champions.

Sosebee Cove is a high-elevation cove forest whose north-facing aspect allows it to remain moist and support a rich diversity of wildflowers. Wolf Creek runs through the trail area and if you make the full loop you will cross it three times, twice on wet rocks and once on a foot bridge. A boulderfield on both sides of the road nestles the flowing creek and the sound of running water compliments the calls of birds that pass through.

Trillium simile

As a result of the rich and moist soils, plants are abundant, crowding the trail almost as if clamoring for your attention. We visited there in the third week of March and found early flowers such as toadshade trillium (Trillium cuneatum) and springbeauty (Claytonia caroliniana). The emerging leaves of many other plants were a tease of the show yet to come. By the time we returned 4 weeks later, the Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) were already finished but I think that was the only one we missed.

Pale colored flowers make up the bulk of the April flowers. Two white trillium species were blooming, the creamy white Trillium simile and the white-pink Trillium grandiflorum. Star chickweed (Stellaria pubera) and toothwort (Cardamine diphylla) decorated the ground level while white-pink spires of foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia) rose above.

Trillium grandiflorum, white phase
Trillium grandiflorum, pink phase

Rich stands of early meadow-rue (Thalictrum dioicum) stood shoulder to shoulder with the similar looking blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides). Blue cohosh’s tiny yellow flowers were being worked over by pollinators.
Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)
Scattered throughout were the pale yellow flowers of mandarin (Prosartes lanuginosa), the still greenish bells of Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) and the mostly tight buds of Solomon’s plume (Maianthemum racemosum). I was glad to have the ability to recognize them among the sea of vegetation and pointed out several plants to other visitors.

Umbrella-leaf (Diphylleia cymosa)

Moisture loving mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) were just beginning to open their single flowers while the similar (and related) umbrella-leaf (Diphylleia cymosa) plants were blooming along the creek’s edges. That is a very special plant to see. Also there were jacks in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) and waterleaf (Hydrophyllum canadense) with tight flower buds.

Purple violets, yellow violets and buttercups (Ranunculus hispidus) provided shots of color here and there until suddenly we spotted the first showy orchis (Galearis spectabilis) tucked close to the ground. This was my first experience with this colorful orchid and I photographed the heck out of it. What a treat to find it over and over as we continued along the trail.

Showy orchis (Galearis spectabilis)

Already we could see the foliage of summer blooming plants like turk’s cap lily (Lilium superbum) and plenty of others. It looks like it will be worth a trip back in late June.

Favorite Wildflower Walks of Georgia by Hugh and Carol Nourse
The Natural Communities of Georgia by Leslie Edwards, Jonathan Ambrose, and L. Katherine Kirkman

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, again, so much for your posts. It is so nice to have plants identified as they are blooming. I recently found several Yellow Mandarins near our cabin outside of Sylva, NC. I wondered if it was related to Uvularia sessilifolia which was also growing all around our place. Also, by the way Blue Cohosh and Showy Orchis. A Pink Lady's Slipper was just opening so I will miss it's open bloom. I've only seen it a couple of times in the 11 years we've been going up there. Thank you, again, so much.