Posts filed under ‘Wildflowers’

Spring Wildflowers at Falls Ridge Nature Preserve

My mother accompanied Sagan and I on a weekend to Blacksburg, Virginia. The weekend went by super fast, but on the way home, we were able to meet some of my friends for a quick hike at the Nature Conservancy’s Falls Ridge Nature Preserve. I’ve been there numerous times before, but this time was one of the most beautiful of trips. Not only did the falls look spectacular, but we were greeted with a rather large variety of blooming wildflowers.

Some snippets of the falls:

Falls Ridge 2013 - Small Mossy Falls (Close)
Mossy Waterfall

Falls Ridge 2013 - Sine Wave Falls
Curvy Falls

A snippet of the wildflowers:

Falls Ridge 2013 - Columbine and Ferns
Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) with Ferns

Falls Ridge 2013 - Single Columbine Flower
Closeup of Wild Columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis)

Falls Ridge 2013 - Mayapple Buds
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) Not Quite Blooming Yet

Falls Ridge 2013 - Trillium By New Stairs
Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Falls Ridge 2013 - Jack in the Pulpit
Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

Falls Ridge 2013 - Purple Orchid Like Flower
Possible Showy Orchid (Orchis spectabilis)

Falls Ridge 2013 - Possible Star Chickweed?
Possible Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera)

Falls Ridge 2013 - Buds and Leaves
Possible False Solomon’s Seal (Smilacina racemosa)

More photos of our Falls Ridge Wildflower Hike can be found on my Flickr site.

Falls Ridge Preserve

Length: You can make it as long or as short as you want

Elevation Gain: Flat, except for a hill to the top of the falls.

Driving and Parking: The final approach to the preserve is a flat gravel road.  There is plenty of parking.

Directions from Blacksburg, VA
From Main Street, turn on Ellett Road.
Turn left on Jennelle Road and cross over railroad tracks
Turn right on Den Hill Road
Turn left on Northfork
Turn right on Falls Ridge Rd.
Turn left immediately after the railroad tracks and follow the gravel road to the preserve.

May 16, 2013 at 1:00 am 4 comments

Cougar Mountain – Overview

In mid-May, Ryan and I attended a wedding in beautiful Washington state. We took a few extra days and had a mini vacation in the Bellevue area before the baby arrives.

Our first full day in Washington state was a lovely sunny day that definitely warranted a hike. Since we weren’t too familiar with the area, I did some web searches and uncovered an excellent blog to help our cause. Weekend Hike covers “Great hikes around the Pacific Northwest and the San Francisco Bay Area.” The blog highlighted a number hikes in the nearby 3000 acre Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park. With 36 miles of hiking trails, Cougar Mountain had a lot of choose from. I perused a number of Weekend Hike’s posts and Ryan and I decided to try the Licorice Fern Trail -> Indian Trail to see the Far Country Falls. We figured we would also do a diversion up the Far Country Trail to see a view. Once we finished those two destinations, however, we were up for more hiking!

Spying the word “Wall” in the “De Leo Wall Trail” and knowing how beautiful Southwest Virginia’s Barney’s Wall is, we continued down the Indian Trail and took the De Leo Wall Trail. It did not disappoint and offered some of the best views of the day! After De Leo Wall, we headed down the Cross Town Trail to the Terrace Trail. We saw a neighborhood terrace and then quaint little Boulder Grove before turning around and heading back home.

Although it had the word “Lookout” in its name, the Far Country Lookout was far from my favorite. I did, however, absolutely adore the moss and fern embellished Far Country Falls. The view from a New Castle neighborhood off the Terrace Trail was a change of pace. It was the views of the De Leo Wall Trail that were the real gem of the day. From there, you could even see larger, snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Cougar Mountain - Far Country Trail - View (Portrait)
Far Country Lookout

Cougar Mountain - Indian Trail - Far Country Falls View
Far Country Falls off the Indian Trail

Cougar Mountain - De Leo Wall Trail - Panaroma View 1
Lake View from the De Leo Wall Trail

Cougar Mountain - De Leo Wall Trail - View of Mountains
View From the De Leo Wall Trail (The light blue band on the horizon are LARGER mountains)

Cougar Mountain - Cross Town Trail - Terrace View (Far)
And For Something Completed Different – View from Terrace Trail

Flora – General
In September 2007, I had the privilege of another hike in Washington State – Twin Falls. Just like the hike four years ago, I was smitten with the prevalence of my favorite color. The trees, dead or alive, sported ferns and moss along their bark. We were in an Emerald Wonderland! So much did I enjoy being enveloped in green, I decided the Licorice Fern Trail was my favorite portion of the day even though it lacks flashy views or waterfalls. It was just plain beautiful.

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Trees and Greenery From Below
Licorice Fern Trail – Greenery From Below

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Little Ryan on Trail
For Perspective – Look how little Ryan is in the left hand corner!

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Ferns on Tree
Ferns Growing on a Tree Off the Licorice Fern Trail

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Moss Branches and Trail
Moss Covered Trees Off the Licorice Fern Trail

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Worm Like Fern Fronds
New Ferns in the Making

Flora – Wildflowers
We were hiking at an excellent time and got to see a number of blooming wildflowers. Most of them I didn’t recognize. But we saw a couple we were familiar with from the east coast, namely trillium…. and dandelion. : )

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Pink Flower
Pink Flower Off the Licorice Fern Trail

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Arched Flower, Arched Fern
Light Purple Flower Off the Licorice Fern Trail

Cougar Mountain - Far Country Trail - Yellow Holly Flowers
Yellow Holly Flowers Off the Far Country Trail

Cougar Mountain - Cross Town Trail - White Flower
White Flower on the Cross Town Trail

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Trillium
Trillium Off the Licorice Fern Trail

Cougar Mountain - Indian Trail - Dandelions
Good Ole Dandelions Off the Indian Trail

When Ryan and I started our hike, the day was still young and misty. We didn’t see any birds or mammals, but we did see plenty of mollusks! We spied a snail, black slugs (Arion ater) and what I believe to be an impressive variety of Pacific banana slugs (Ariolimax columbianus).

Cougar Mountain - Indian Trail - Black, Two Textured Slug
Black Slug Off the Indian Trail

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Spotted Slug
A Spotted Banana Slug Off the Licorice Fern Trail

Cougar Mountain - Licorice Fern Trail - Tan Slug
A Tan Banana Slug Off the Licorice Fern Trail

Cougar Mountain - Indian Trail - Snail
A Snail on the Indian Trail. (I wonder if it thinks it’s better than the slugs because it has a shell)

As the day warmed up, the moisture in the forest disappeared and so did all the slugs and snails. It was then we started to notice the mammals and the birds. We ran across a squirrel, birds and a number of deer who seemed as fond of the trails as we were.

The fauna highlight of the day was seeing not one but TWO green hummingbirds out in the wild (One off the Cross Town Trail and one off the Licorice Fern Trail). Alas, those little buggers were so fleeting and fast, we had no hope of pictures. Nonetheless, those surprise sightings will stick with us. Both of the hummingbirds we saw were green… so perhaps they were female Anna’s Hummingbirds (Calypte anna)?

Cougar Mountain - Indian Trail - Deer on Path 1
One of Many Deer on the Indian Trail

All in all, we were hiking for five gorgeous, invigorating hours. It looks tedious to add up the mileage from the Trail Map. I typically hike 2 miles an hour, so I suspect our total outing was between 8-10 miles. Not too bad for 27 weeks. : )

Cougar Mountain - Terrace Trail - Vicky's Belly at Boulder Grove (By Ryan Somma)
My Belly at Boulder Grove (Photo by Ryan Somma)

More pictures of Cougar Mountain can be found on my Flickr site. For more detailed trail descriptions of Cougar Mountain hikes, I highly recommend the Weekend Hike blog.

Cougar Mountain Via the Licorice Fern TrailheadTrail Map

Length: Varied – 36 miles of trail to choose from!

Elevation Gain: Varied

Directions from Bellevue, Washington

From I-405 S, Take Exit 10 on Coal Creek Parkway toward Factoria

Turn left on SE May Valley Road

Turn left to stay on SE May Valley Road

Take the first left onto SE 112th Street

Licorice Fern Trailhead will be on the right after a sharp bend left.

Parking is along the street.

June 1, 2011 at 1:00 am 5 comments

Brooklyn Botanic Garden – Plant Architecture Mini Safari

On April 30, Georgia at localecologist went on an Animal Architecture Safari in Brooklyn. That very same weekend, I was also in Brooklyn and admiring architecture. Only I was taking note of plants instead of animals!

One thing I loved about the Brooklyn Botanic Garden was how they used recognizable species in their structures.

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - Gingko in Stonework
Gingko Leaves Carved into a Stone Column

I was particularly fond of the doorway to the Native Flora Garden. The metalwork on the door had some cameos by familiar wildflowers.

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens - Native Garden Door
The Native Flora Garden Door

The left panel of the door featured a Lady Slipper Orchid. They even included the grains in the leaves!

Brooklyn Botanic Garden - Native Plant Door Marked Up - Lady Slipper Orchid
Lady Slipper Orchid (Actual Lady Slipper Orchid Photo is by reznicek111)

Meanwhile, the right side of the door featured a Jack in the Pulpit.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden - Native Plant Door Marked Up - Jack in the Pulpit
Jack in the Pulpit! (Actual Jack in the Pulpit Photo is by pl1602)

What wonderful attention to detail they put into their designs!

More pictures of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden can be found on my Flickr site.

May 30, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Wildflowers at Keffer Oak

Tony Airaghi and I may have been focused on mushrooms near Keffer Oak, but it was hard to ignore the summer wildflowers. Here are some of my favorite shots. So much to see in just a 0.6 mile section of trail!

Sinking Creek Mountain - Milkweed Bug and Yellow Flowers
Milkweed Bug on Yellow Flower

Sinking Creek Mountain - Purple Flowers and Appalachian Trail
Purple Flowers, Appalachian Trail is in the Background

Sinking Creek Mountain - Orange Wildflower
Orange Flowers

Sinking Creek Mountain - Blue Purple Wildflowers
Blue and Purple Flowers

Sinking Creek Mountain - Butterfly on Flower
Butterfly on Purple

More pictures of our outing to Keffer Oak can be found on my Flickr site.

September 2, 2009 at 5:00 am 1 comment

links for 2009-03-11

March 11, 2009 at 2:31 pm 3 comments

Rocky Gap

I am very lucky to live in an area with numerous A.T. trailheads. One of the most convenient to me is the VA-601 crossing. At that trailhead, a vast majority of recreational hikers will travel northbound to take in the views at Kelly’s Knob. But, I also recommend traveling southbound. Going down to VA-632 and back is a 4 mile round trip that you can fit in after work or even a weekend day before other obligations. On the down side, this does mean you can hike and still have ample time to do household chores.

This section may not have the overlook that Kelly’s Knob has, but it is beautiful in its own right. The rocky trail is lined with moss and ferns and when the time is right– blooming mayapples and azaleas. As far as exercise goes, your legs get more of a climb than they would to Kelly’s Knob. VA-632 to VA-601 has an elevation gain of 1184 feet, whereas Kelly’s Knob is only 478 feet higher than VA-601 (though that first hill makes it feel a heck of a lot worse!).

Know what else Rocky Gap has? Baby American Chestnut trees!

(Even though these trees will eventually succumb to the blight, if you hurt them then I’m going to go the Steve Sillett route and never ever pointing them out again.)

Henry on the rocky trail.

Blooming Azaleas

Log silhouette and Rocky Gap greenery.

Ferns and their shadows

Baby American Chestnut Tree

More pictures of my recent outings to Rocky Gap can be found on my Flickr site. And by request:

Rocky Gap
(Appalachian Trail from VA-601 to VA-632 and back)

Mileage: 4 miles round trip

Elevation Difference: 1184 feet

4WD Requirements: The last 1.5 miles of VA-601 is a gravel hill, but it is well maintained and I have seen non-4WD vehicles make it up.

Trailhead Parking: The VA-601 trailhead has a small parking area to the left. On busy days, cars park on the side of the gravel road.

Driving Directions:
(from Blacksburg, Virginia)
Take 460 West and turn right on VA-42.
Bear right to stay on VA-42
Shortly afterwards, turn left on VA-601
When VA-601 turns to gravel, you have about 1.5 miles to the top.
Once there, AT Southbound is to your left and AT Northbound is on your right.

Along the way, you’ll pass by Sinking Creek Bridge, a covered bridge built in 1916.

May 17, 2008 at 12:00 am 4 comments

10 Things in my Yard

I was sick all last weekend and didn’t get to venture far from home. But, thanks to six years of limited yardwork, I have plenty of vegetation to see in my backyard.

Inspired by the No Child Left Inside Coalition video that said “young people could identify 1000 corporate logos but fewer than 10 plants or animals native to their backyards”, I went outside and took pictures of things in my yard. So here are 10 Things in my Yard:

Flowering Dogwood

State tree AND flower of Virginia, State tree of Missouri, State flower of North Carolina

Dogwood I learned at a pretty early age. One day, my siblings and I decided we would build a tree house. There were very few obtainable trees to our short statures. We selected the only one we could reach and nailed no more than three boards into the branches when we were reprimanded by our mother. Apparently, it is against the law to damage the state tree. And that was that. It was going to be a pretty sucky treehouse anyway.

Gray Birch

I don’t have a good story about birch trees. But I will say every time the Direct TV goes out in the summer, this tree is one of my first scapegoats. It has grown so high, I keep waiting for it to block the satellite dish. I’m still waiting.


I was officially introduced to Mayapples last year by Jere Bidwell on our Cornelius Creek hike. Mayapples sport a single bloom which hides under their umbrella-like canopy, so you can’t see the flower from above, you have to look for it!

Silver Maple

This tree never stuck out to me as extraordinary until Sean’s Dad came to visit the house. He is a fan of this tree and actually mentions it pretty regularly.

Sugar Maple

State Tree of New York, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

This is another tree Sean’s Dad taught me. When I first moved into my house I was told that this particular tree wouldn’t last because it was growing into itself. After all the trees I have seen survive under sketchy conditions, growing on rocks, merging back into themselves, eating fences and blazes and even combining with other trees, I decided this one is a big pansy if it can’t figure the matter out on its own. So far it is still going strong.

Tulip Poplar

State tree of Tennesse, Indiana and Kentucky.

This is the favorite tree of my Great Uncle Chuck and my sister. Great Uncle Chuck likes it for practical reasons, “It grows fast and the wood is strong.” Carolyn likes it for a different purpose, “Because it’s easy to identify.”

Since two of my favorite people like this tree, the species will always have a place in my heart.


Sycamores I learned at a very early age as well. My grandmother used to point them out when we went to visit Mount Vernon. I also remember Sycamores from the Bible story of Zacchaeus. He was the short tax collector, who couldn’t see Jesus through the crowd. So he climbed a Sycamore tree to get a better view.

The more I see Sycamore trees, the more I wonder about that story. The branches are so far off the ground. How did short Zacchaeus ever get up there? 🙂


This is a new tree to me. I chose to highlight it in this list of ten because I like the pretty blooms. It seemed flashier than “Dandelion” or “Wild Strawberry”

Poison Ivy

Even though I learned this one at a pretty young age, I managed to have negative encounters with this plant well into adulthood. Most notably, I once got poison ivy on my face trying to rescue a goat from the wood pile.

Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper is commonly mistaken for poison ivy. But it is waaaay cooler. It is featured in the state seal of Virginia! My relationship with Virginia Creeper began with Tony Airaghi. Since then I have become very fond of the plant, especially in the fall.

And there you go, 10 Things in my Yard, which is only about 1/3 of an acre. I certainly don’t want to put you on the spot, but I wouldn’t mind seeing 10 things from *your* yards.

Especially since I’m *cough* *cough* still sick and I can’t get to the AT. 🙂

May 6, 2008 at 2:00 pm 13 comments

links for 2008-04-16

April 16, 2008 at 2:31 pm Leave a comment

ABCs of Orchids

On Saturday, while looking at cherry blossoms, I did sneak in for a stroll through the United States Botanical Gardens.  Currently they have an “Alphabet of Orchids” exhibit, which provided plenty of opportunities for pictures.

Orchids at the National Gardens

More Orchids at the National Gardens

And another one at the National Gardens

Looking at these beautiful plants, I felt whisked away.  I could picture people paddling canoes through treacherous tropic rivers and climbing up in the canopy of trees just for the possibility of a glimpse of one of these flowers.  Orchids seemed so exotic and unattainable.

It wasn’t until I was back home in Southwest Virginia, killing time before the next installment of HBO’s John Adams, that I paused and thought, “Wait a second!  I’ve SEEN orchids here.”

They may not be as flashy as some of the ones on display at the National Gardens, but the Appalachian Trail is home to Pink Lady Slipper Orchids.  I’ve seen them near Dragon’s Tooth and near Apple Orchard Falls.

Pink Lady Slipper Orchids off Cornelius Creek Trail on May 15, 2007

The “A” in the “Alphabet of Orchids” stands for “Adaptation” and Wikipedia describes the flowers as “occurring in almost every habitat apart from deserts and glaciers.”  The Appalachian Trail, being neither a desert or a glacier, safely falls in the “almost every habitat” category.

The “B” in the “Alphabet of Orchids” supposedly represents the big “Business” surrounding this type of flower.  Somehow the U.S. Botanic Gardens managed to resist using the most tempting and obvious B-word of all.  I’m not that strong.  It’s cliche and corny, but also 100% accurate.  Regardless if the orchid is from Asia, Africa or is practically in my backyard:

“B” could stand for “Beauty” 

April 7, 2008 at 9:32 am 3 comments

Caldwell Field Pictures

On Sunday, the dogs and I stopped by Caldwell Fields on the way home from a trip to Sinking Creek Mountain.  The flora has changed since my last trip in May.  New wildflowers and new berries were present in the field.  Plus new tadpoles were in the creek.  Some pictures:

Yellow wildflower (Brown eyed Susan?)

Tadpoles hide under a floating leaf

Berries and Flowers

Another sample of the Beauty of Imperfection— these leaves are riddle with holes, but gorgeous

The layered levels at the creek

Jimmie and his shadow in the creek water

Jimmie discovers the tadpoles

More Caldwell Field pictures are available on my Flickr site.

July 3, 2007 at 10:38 pm 2 comments

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