April Wildflowers of Shenandoah National Park
So I never did tell you about the time Judy and I motored down the Skyline Drive in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, did I? This was back in late April, after visiting friends near Baltimore and then Tammy of Casa Mariposa in northern Virginia.
It was a cloudy day, not ideal for photography, though the sun did make an occasional appearance. The spring wildflowers in this area are supposed to be glorious, but our trip was a bit premature – the real peak of bloom wouldn’t start for another three weeks or so.
Even so, there were flowers to be found if you looked closely.
Skyline Drive extends for over 100 miles through the length of the Shenandoah National Park. It’s a two lane road, mostly between two and three thousand feet in elevation.
There are numerous campgrounds and trailheads, plus dozens of scenic overlooks offering views of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west and the Piedmont to the east.
We made many stops for pictures, and also took time to hike one of the easier trails in order to get a better look at the first flowers of the season.
I was pleased and surprised to see a few smallish Trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum) scattered about.
Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) were the most plentiful of the flowers to be found, sometimes in clumps and sometimes sprinkled over a large area.
Not at all sure what this wildflower is.
Not this one either. The leaves are quite similar to the flower above, but of course the color is different and the stem is taller and more slender.
We thought this was quite a testament to the power of trees.
We forgot to bring any kind of field guide, so I don’t know what this one is either. Looks a little like some kind of Anemone or Wild Strawberry, but not quite right.
Ditto. Any assistance with ID for any of the above appreciated.
The Drive south of Big Meadows was closed due to a forest fire. However, there’s a wonderful museum here (along with a lodge and a campground) about the history of Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah National Park.
The park was started by Herbert Hoover but completed as a result of FDR’s New Deal. It was one of the major achievements of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which provided work for young men during a period of widespread unemployment. About 10,000 CCC workers were involved in creating the infrastructure of this park between 1933 and 1942.
At the museum you can watch an excellent documentary about the CCC. It includes some moving interviews from CCC veterans who considered the Corps to be the positive turning point of their lives.
This is a beautiful part of Virginia to visit any time of year, but I would aim for around mid-May if you want to see the wildflowers at their peak.