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.

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A view of the Blue Ridge Mountains

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I was pleased and surprised to see a few smallish Trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum) scattered about.

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Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) were the most plentiful of the flowers to be found, sometimes in clumps and sometimes sprinkled over a large area.

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Not at all sure what this wildflower is.

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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.

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We thought this was quite a testament to the power of trees.

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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.

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Ditto. Any assistance with ID for any of the above appreciated.

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A statue dedicated to the memory of CCC workers. 

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.

43 Comments on “April Wildflowers of Shenandoah National Park”

  1. Beautiful view of Blue Ridge mountains …the name Shenandoah makes me think of the cowboy movies I was brought up on … Not quite sure why? The plan to provide work during a time of widespread unemployment always seemed like a win win to me …On our recent travels in Europe we saw so many young people without work .. Surely not a good thing for them or the stability of the countries.

  2. Wonderful pictures – lucky you, living in the land of Trilliiums! I’d agree with Pauline – the first two are definitely anemones and I think you are right about the wild strawberry, judgeing by the leaves as well as the flowers.

  3. That looks like such a scenic route – I love national and state parks and went to many of those along the east coast when I was a kid with my family. Now I’m trying to entice my husband into taking similar road trips (he’s more of a fly to your destination type of person). And yes, those would be wild strawberries – yum (so long as no one steps on them!)

  4. Your first two unknowns look like anemones, but I’m not sure which one. Possible wood anemone. The white flower that looks like a strawberry is, but there is foliage from some other plant in the photo. The strawberry leaves are just opening slightly above and to the left of the flower. The last yellow flowered unknown looks like mouse ear hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella.) It could be one of the other hawkweeds but this one seems to have very small leaves.

  5. I love Skyline Drive and the whole Blue Ridge Parkway. When driving them, you realize how much clutter there is around most roads. The CCC stonework alone makes the drive worth it–even without any flowers (but the mountain laurels are spectacular if you can catch them).

  6. You have that song going around my head now…In the blue ridge mountain of Virginia….
    Goodness me, what beautiful mountains, I can just imagine the drive and the trek!!! This post reminds me how I miss the bluebells every year in the Lakes! I loved the spring flowers you did find, and also that tree, they beat rocks every time!xxx

  7. spp.) to bloom in the forest and along Skyline Drive, followed by the white flowers of mountain laurel ( Wildflowers comprise 862 species, or greater than half of the 1406 vascular plant species found in Shenandoah National park. Almost 20% of these species are in the aster (Asteraceae) family. The next most abundantly represented wildflower plant families are the pea (Fabaceae), lily (Lilaceae), mint (Lamiaceae) and mustard (Brassicaceae) families. The rich diversity of wildflowers in the park is particularly evident in spring at the lower elevations along streams such as South River, Hughes River, Rose River, and Mill Prong. Later in the season, the banks of Skyline Drive and the Big Meadows area are great places to see summer and fall wildflowers.

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