Sunday, February 26, 2017

Peeking in the Pocket

The Pocket at Pigeon Mountain (and the Shirley Miller Wildflower Trail located there) is a beautiful spring wildflower hotspot. A popular time to go is mid-March when flowers are very lush and colorful. I have been several times during that timeframe (you can read about my 2012 visit here), and I’m planning to go again this year with friends. Last weekend, in a spur of the moment decision, I decided to visit a month earlier than usual to get a peek at some of the super early wildflowers that won’t be blooming a month from now.

Erigenia bulbosa
Erigenia bulbosa next to Phacelia

The main attraction for this visit was to see harbinger of spring (Erigenia bulbosa), a tiny member of the Apiaceae (parsley) family. As you can tell by its common name, this is a very early wildflower. It was blooming nicely all along the trail and we were able to photograph it up close once the boardwalk transitioned to the dirt path that leads to the waterfall.

Hepatica nobilis var. acuta

Hepatica nobilis var. acuta

Hepatica nobilis var. acuta, purple flowers
The star of the day was sharp-lobed hepatica (Hepatica nobilis var. acuta or Anemone acutiloba). This perennial was scattered throughout the trail, growing in all conditions. Some of the clumps were huge, with numerous stems of flowers and old, leathery leaves (new leaves will emerge soon).

Most of the flowers were white, but in some areas we found purple ones - so that became the treat, to find them.

Hepatica nobilis var. acuta with small bee
I was also pleased to find a small carpenter bee (Ceratina sp.) exploring one of the hepatica flowers. The only other pollinator I found on that trip was a spring azure butterfly along the path to the parking lot.

The path to the waterfall had the most flowers. In addition to the two mentioned, we saw decumbent trilliums (Trillium decumbens) with buds, Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) with pink buds (and one individual that was actually blooming but he was way ahead of his time), and a few blooming clumps of star chickweed (Stellaria pubera). We saw the early leaves of many of the March superstars too.

As we were returning along the boardwalk, we got another surprise. We met up with a couple visiting from Alabama that I know only from Facebook. What a happy coincidence that we picked the same day to visit and meet in person for the first time.

We also hiked the upper trail that leads to the top of the waterfall. There were not many flowers, but we found some of the purple-flowering hepatica and a single clump of bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) on an exposed area (where perhaps it was getting extra warmth). We also saw the earliest flowering shrub – spicebush (Lindera benzoin) – just opening.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) attracting a few bugs too
Spring azure

I’m still looking forward to my March trip with some of my native wildflower-loving friends. I know the floral show will be spectacular and the company will be too.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting how some of the flowers are blooming a few weeks earlier than normal and others are staying on their regular schedule. I'm also discovering that several of my early bloomers are not emerging, maybe lost to our drought last year.