Monday, May 23, 2011

Blackwater Falls Wildflower Pilgrimage 2011

Last year I had such a wonderful time at the Blackwater Falls Wildflower Pilgrimage in West Virginia and I decided to go again this year. Instead of focusing on moss and ferns I went on the mostly wildflower walks and saws many that had never seen before. One of the best parts about this event is that everyone in very interested and have field guides open and are discussing the plants. There is plenty of time for photos and plant discussion.

The event last for two days and each day has a choice of 12 tours each lasting a day. This year I chose tours at the higher elevations and really enjoyed the cool mountain streams that we drove through.

Here are some of the highlights.
Shooting Star
The star of the trip was seeing the “Shooting Stars” for the first time. I saw one and was excited and then as I looked around I realized I was surrounded by them…they were everywhere. Dodecatheon gets is common name from the shape of the flower as you can see below and imagine this flower falling across the sky. It is a member of the Primrose family (Primulaceae). They can be found here in North America and northeastern Siberia. I found it interesting how the flowers are pollinated by bees. According the Wikipedia the bees “grab hold of the petals, and gather pollen by vibrating the flowers by buzzing their wings (buzz pollination). The vibration releases pollen from the anthers.

On the way up the mountain we stopped at this small shale barren alongside the road where we found Twist Flower. It was a nice unexpected sighting.

The name come sfrom the twist as seen above.

Also shown is Yellow Pimpernell (Taenidia integerrima) a member of the Carrot family (Apiaceae). There were right at home on the dry sloping bank. The umbels were about 4-5 inches.

Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis)
We returned to our cars and drove on up the mountain where I spotted Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis). Again back to Wikipedia where I learned that the Cherokees used it as a source of blue dye, which the Europeans settlers copied. They also used it as a medicine for various ailments. The scientific name comes from the Greek word bapto, meaning “to dip” or “immerse” and australis from the Latin for “southern”. The seed pods are often used in flower arrangements but did you know that once the seeds are mature, the stems break off from the roots and with the pods still attached are blown to another location. Now that is a form of wind dispersal I had not heard of before.

Other wildflowers we saw included: Bladder Campion, Emarginata violet, Wake Robin Trillium, Solomons Seal, Pipestem, Jack in the Pulpit, False Soloman's Seal, Yellow mandrake, Ginger and Wild Colombine. Below is a photo of the Bladder Campion.

The other highlight of this particular tour was the opportunity to see Gay wings (Polygala paucifolia). It is also known as Fringed Polygala for Flowering wintergreen. It is a perennial about 6 inches tall. The two “wings” are sepals. The fringed part made me think of a star nosed mole going to a Mary Kay convention.

It looks like a bee has cut a hole and robbed this flower of its nectar without taking the pollen. I have seen that before on Dutchman’s breeches.

The road we were taking was a gravel road through free range cattle farms. The cows stared at us like they had never seen a car before.

When we stopped for lunch I found what looked like nice log to sit on but it is was a little too high to be comfortable so I got up to move to the one next to it. When I did I noticed a snake right behind the spot where my feet were just a minute ago. Calling “snake, snake, snake I got the attention of the Herpetologist with us and he ran over and pulled the reluctant snake from its hide out. As you can see it was around 6 feet long. The eye clouded over is an indication that this Black Rat snake was going to shed within the next 24 hours. It was a very old snake, possibly 20 years.

As we descended the mountain we stopped for a rare view looking down onto Seneca Rocks.

Be sure to stop and check out other flowers on Today's Flowers. Click here.

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