The Raleigh Naturalist

May 15, 2021

Spring Flowers on the MTS Trail

Filed under: Greenways & Parks, Nature Lore, Western NC — Tags: — raleighnaturalist @ 12:52 pm
Fire Pink, Silene virginica

Just ten miles from my Asheville homestead is an easy connection to the Mountain-to-Sea Trail, a growing statewide amenity that is “a simple footpath stretching almost 1,200 miles across North Carolina from Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains to Jockey’s Ridge on the Outer Banks.” My section climbs Bull Gap from Ox Creek Road to the ruins of Rattlesnake Lodge, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. In early May, the trail is a stunning showcase of mountain spring flowers.

Trillium patch

Trillium fruits become a food for deer. Wildflowers of the Carolinas by Nora and Rick Bowers states that ants take their seeds home and then eat only the oily coating, thus germinating some of the seeds. Wildflowers of the Blue Ridge Parkway by J.A. Alderman says they are “one of the stars of mountain wildflowers,” sometimes covering acres of forest floor.

Trilium blooms start white and turn pink as they get pollinated. Mountain flowers blossom early before the leaf canopy closed in for the summer. By mid June, most of these blooms will be long gone.

Large-flowered trillium, trillium grandflora
phacelia Looking down the slope
The view across Bull Valley

Yes, I see the poison ivy! The trail criss-crosses as it climbs and you can see folks quite a bit below or above you. Parking on Ox Creek Rd. gets crowded on the weekends. I have yet to get my retired old legs all the way to the top to see the remains of Rattlesnake lodge, said to be an impressive stone foundation. But I’ll get there sometime – maybe this fall to see the other end of this cycle.

wild geranium geranium maculatum
Phacelia bipinnatifida

Fallen logs off the trail are left where they are and there are huge stone outcrops along the way.

Fire pink gets its first name for color: the second is its flower family.
false Solomon seal
wild white violets
bearcorn Conopbolis americana

This is a parasitic plant that lives off of tree roots. It is less respectfully called squaw root, as Native American woman used it medicinally. It grows in dry woods near oaks, so there are several specimans on this trail.

phacelia patch

The Appalachian mountains in North Carolina represent a highly diverse mix of Northern and Southern plant species. You can watch the species change as you gain elevation on this steep trail.

ramps on my own mountain slope in Baird Cove

My own backyard offers quite a few wild spring flowers, but it can be hard to catch them in bloom! Wild iris, rattlesnake plantain (an orchid), jack-in-the-pulpit, star chickweed, and trout lily appear, but some of those just for a few days before taking on their summer form. I have purchased and transplant ginseng and ramps just for the fun of it. Happy trails in your spring flowers findings!

Read the book based on this blog

The Natural History of Raleigh

January 3, 2020

Environmental Issues Part of New State-wide Focus Here

Filed under: About & reflection, Gems & Surprises, green initiatives, Raleigh History, Western NC — Tags: — raleighnaturalist @ 6:38 pm

The picture above is about half of the subscription to Environment I ordered in 1971 as a senior at Enloe High School. I had formed an Ecology Club at Enloe and started several initiatives through that to raise awareness of environmental issues. 49 years ago the destruction of our natural environment and the senselessness of a carbon-based energy economy was big news and actually led to many important reforms. I am proud to have been a tiny part of that and grateful to all my Enloe friends who supported and participated in the club.

The tiny ink price on the top magazine tells us what happened to the other half of the subscription: sometime in the ten years I was a bookseller in the 1980’s, I put up the whole batch for sale at 25 cents each. When I became an environmental educator in the 90’s, these issues were rescued from the bookstore remains as a historical resource. This blog has always been a promoter of green initiatives, especially conservation of natural areas. But with my retirement and now the wonderful success of my new book, The Natural History of Raleigh, which was the whole reason for the existence of the blog, I am ready to take this site to a state-wide perspective that allows full rein for my explorations of western North Carolina. Along with that, I will be addressing more overtly and more loudly the massive environmental challenges we face as we enter 2020 and beyond.

A long-planned signal of these changes is the change in name of the weblog from Raleigh Nature to The Raleigh Naturalist. My heart will always be in Raleigh, and many future posts will continue to be devoted to my native city. Many others, such as my cherished dream of writing a decent article on Highway 64, will connect Raleigh to the whole state and beyond. Happy New Year and cheers to sustainable living and honest connections to the land that nurtures us.

Yearbook portrait of the Enloe Ecology Club, 1971

Green Resources

The Natural History of Raleigh

May 24, 2019

Schenck Forest Preserves Forestry Lore and Practice

Filed under: Greenways & Parks, West Raleigh, Western NC — Tags: — raleighnaturalist @ 6:06 pm

Schenck Forest held a special place in my family back when the kids were the right ages to run with the dogs down in the creek bottom. Yes I admit we used to give them free run once we were down there. Those days are long gone – I understand the strict reinforcement of the rules, and I surely cannot say I never saw dog problems there. The place remains a beautiful place to visit, but it also represents an important marker of forestry practices, and is named for the pioneering sustainable forester who made his name at the Biltmore Estate.

Carl Alwin Schenck

Dr. Schenck was hired by George Vanderbilt to design and manage Biltmore’s forestry operations after the “partial”departure of Gifford Pinchot. He founded a forestry school that greatly influenced the American industry and his work on the future Pisgah National Forest set a grand example of forestry practice at its best. NCSU’s 300 acre teaching forest enables today’s students to learn about and put into effect the principles of selective logging to enhance long-term value, protection of diversity in the forest habitat, and nurturing of future resources.

View from Edwards Mill Road intersection

photo courtesy of twbuckner

Above, Schenck Forest is to the left of the Reedy Creek Trail, which runs from the NC Museum of Art to the southern entrance of Umstead State Park. The forest ranges down to Richland Creek. There are several loop trails. As seen below, the area has ever-changing stands of trees – mostly loblolly pine -at all stages of development.

The strict leash rules were implemented in 2005. Enforcement via horseback, bike, and undercover on foot takes place afternoons and weekends. Richland Creek makes some big sandy swimming holes as it traverses the bottomland, and the temptation is high. Violators may be banned from the park for a year. The popularity of Schenck Forest remains very high. Biltmore’s huge forest became a national park and Carl Schenck is well memorialized by this wonderful Raleigh amenity.

 

The Natural History of Raleigh

click above to buy the book based on this blog

May 11, 2019

Mountain Meadow Flowers

Filed under: Exotica, Gems & Surprises, Western NC — Tags: — raleighnaturalist @ 2:26 pm

 

Asheville from Lookout Mountain

My retirement town has many great views, but the best one of downtown is from the hillside beside the UNC-A observatory on Lookout Mountain. (The campus is visible middle right). This southern-facing meadow is rich with spring flowers right now, and most of these species are to be seen in Raleigh as well.

The daisies erupt from a sea of green. This hillside gets mowed maybe once a year to keep out the trees and shrubs. So all the herbaceous plants fight it out.

The mix here is rich and includes Virginia creeper and occasionally poison ivy. It is regularly used by hikers and dog walkers.

The plants below don’t make pretty flowers, but we might remember bending the stem around and shooting their little brown fruits at each other. This is a nice stand of plantain, a highly useful herb which can make poultices and other medicinals.

Mullein plants

Mullein plants make a fine tea and don’t flower until late summer, but man, that flower is a phallic wonder! An amazingly tall green thrust cover with tiny yellow petals.

This aster has already flowered and is ready to set it’s seeds sailing in the wind. Every plant has its own rhythm.

The walk up to the view of downtown Asheville is short but strenuous, well worth the effort on an early spring morning to see the profusion of blooms.

An early feature on Raleigh spring flowers can be found here. If you haven’t done so, please check out the new book based on this blog!

The Natural History of Raleigh

 

October 20, 2008

Blue Ridge Parkway and other waypaths

   The Blue Ridge Parkway serves as a ribbon of access to the peaceful grace of both rural and wild scenes in the NC mountains.  The stretch surrounding Doughton Park, where Cara and I camped in August, offers more of the agricultural type.  The Parkway passes through currently used farms, with cows, sheep, goats and small gardens.  Near Doughton Park is Brinegar Cabin, whose old style of mountain farm living was enacted, and thus preserved, well into the 20th century. I posted a set of documentary photos about it at Pecans & Mistletoe, which is fast becoming the home of my explorations into heritage sustainable agriculture as well as a site for extended nature projects of all kinds. The nature images from our trip are on a post at the Raleigh Nature Photo Archive, which, like Pecans & Mistletoe, is a blogspot blog where I load and display most of the pictures for The Natural History of Raleigh, which is the name of my overall nature project and the future book which will culminate the work of these three blogs: Raleigh Nature, the main site, Raleigh Nature Photos, the photo album site, and Pecans & Mistletoe, the nature project site.  Occasionally some piece of all this leaks over into Raleigh Rambles, my personal blog, where I can talk about anything I want.

   Getting back to our mountain trip, we saw a beautiful pair of walking sticks at our campsite on the grassy knob of Doughton Park.  There are campsites at this park where you can walk out your tent, start down the hillside behind you, and go for a day or so before hitting a road.  We took a long hike through a nearby wooded trail and saw lots and lots of mushrooms, as you will see on the photo album.  Below is a particularly lovely grouping of shrooms, moss, and liverworts.

    Brinegar Cabin, which is right on the Parkway, really reminds you of how closely we lived with nature until not so many decades ago.  The Spring House (which is now contaminated by a Park Service outhouse built uphill from it), the naturally cooled food cellar, and the “linsey-wooly” products and cobbling service which generated cash money, all are vivid reminders of a way of life that, at this site, lasted until the 1930’s.  Best of all was the sights and lessons of growing and processing flax, which excites papermakers like ourselves very much.

Blog at WordPress.com.