Here it is… March already and time for wildflower hunts! The first one of 2020 was a little by accident as the purpose of our weekend camping trip was a shakeout of our new mini-pop-up camper to prepare for a major week long adventure in the Smokies in a few weeks. We chose James “Sloppy” Floyd State Park in Summerville, Georgia, since it was a quick thirty minutes from home plus we had never been there and all new places are exciting.
As we turned into the campsite, I couldn’t help but notice a low-lying woodland filled with what appeared to be acres of Mayapple wildflowers at the foot of winter dressed trees. We just had to visit that woodland environment as the Mayapple is a prime indicator of good wildflower soil.
The camper, although small, provided us with multiple challenges as we learned what to do and in what order to do it in. Finally, and I won’t tell you how long it took, but we finished the setup and despite the cramped quarters, it was still comfortable, cozy, and it lured us to sleep with dreams of a prime wildflower safari the next day.
Next morning, as we retraced our steps to the lowland forest with promising Mayapples, our quick once-over of the surrounding woods told us that wildflowers would be relatively scarce as there was a heavy leaf cover beneath the tall oaks, hickories, maples and pines. But along the roadside where a touch of sun permitted late winter warmth and light to pierce the woodland, several wildflowers had emerged and some were blooming although it was easy to see that the prime season was still weeks away.
The first ones noticed were Bluets. These tiny “Quaker Ladies” were bright blue with a yellow center not like the smaller deep purple variety seen around our Adares subdivision. They were in small groups, occasionally alone, but always welcoming us to what we love – a new wildflower adventure! Along the way the Redbud Trees were in full bloom with no evidence of any other spring flowering tree – yet. We saw our first Trillium of the season. It was an immature Sessile Trillium, or Wake-Robin which is sometimes called a Stinking Willie, although I have never detected any odor from its dark red, stemless blooms. Blossoms were still a week or so away but later encounters showed buds ripening and promising that Spring was really here.
Wildflower leaves became more prominent than usual with Wood Sorrel, or shamrock, being especially handsome even without the multitude of pink, lavender, and yellow blooms that would appear in the coming weeks. A few Wintergreen plants were observed but no little white blossoms yet. The mottled leaves of Sessile Trillium, chevron-like Sorrel, and umbrella shaped Mayapple added color and contrast to the dull, brown oak and maple leaves of summers past. A second spring blooming tree was ready to explode. The Bottlebrush Buckeyes were in one section of the woodland and had spikes of bright red buds perhaps several days from blooming. Even its bright green leaves were attractive against the brown hues of the forest floor.
As we slowly made our way through the Mayapple covered creek bottomland, we occasionally stumbled upon an early spring bloomer – the Rue Anemone, with its pure-white multi-petaled blossoms and tiny ovate leaves. They love spring moisture and lined the flowing stream in widely scattered clumps several feet above the water level.
One yellow Cinquefoil (five leave) was observed and a several deep purple violets along with a lavender blossom that I have yet to identify. It looks somewhat like a Woodland Phlox but they are a mid-Spring to mid-summer bloomer so I was a little perplexed.
Several trash items were found in this pristine environment but perhaps they were washed down from human habitation a mile upstream in a mid-winter flood. I hope that was the case as it would be a shame for anyone to trash this prime wildflower home. We exited the woodland as it merged with one of the park’s lakes and I had momentary thoughts of catching that ten pound bass that I knew was swimming just beyond reach of any fishing pole and line.
The all-too-short wildflower trek was fun and my wife took excellent photos – me not so much. I had a new camera and she used her phone. What an irony! Our next wildflower safari will be the first week in April and we will visit the same trails and woodlands we did last year where we will be, once again, overwhelmed with dozens of old blooming friends, new blossom acquaintances, and even perhaps a few new wildflower hunters such as us!