Native spring wildflowers will be the focus of Shenandoah National Park’s 32nd annual Wildflower Weekend, May 5-6, 2018.
This time of year, as the days lengthen and the temperature begins to warm, look for purple and yellow violets flower (Viola spp.), and the large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule), and wild geraniums (Geranium maculatum) appear within the forest. The small blue and yellow flowers of bluets or Quaker ladies (Houstonia caerulea) line many trails. Pink azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) bloom in the forest and along Skyline Drive, followed by the white flowers of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) in June.
Wildflowers comprise 862 species, or greater than half of the 1406 vascular plant species found in Shenandoah National park. Special hikes and programs will focus on the diversity and value of hundreds of species of flowering plants that are protected by the park.
New this year is a one-way, 1.5-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail from Skyland to Timber Hollow Overlook. A van will return drivers to their cars afterward. There will also be a new hike on the 4-mile Saddleback Mountain loop. Easier hikes include strolls at Franklin Cliffs and Crescent Rock overlooks. There will also be a bird walk, hikes to waterfalls and peaks, and hikes on other favorite wildflower trails.
All programs are free and no reservations are needed. There is a $25 entrance fee to the park (good for 7 days). The complete program schedule is posted on the park website: www.nps.gov/shen.
Visitors may also view the winning entries in the park’s annual “Youth Art in the Park” wildflower art contest. The top-winning works will be exhibited at Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51 on Skyline Drive) from May 5 – 12, and at Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (mile 4.6) from May 13 – 20. Winning artists will be recognized in a ceremony at noon Saturday, May 6, at Byrd Visitor Center.
Special features this year are a botanical art workshop by watercolor artist Betty Gatewood (Saturday only), and a citizen-science phenology project led by ranger Chrissy Cochran (both days). Both events start at Byrd Visitor Center. No art experience is necessary for the workshop, and all materials will be provided. Adults and children are welcome on all programs.
Consider a stay in the park at one of the lodges, or explore a little further afield in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. This 150-mile long beautiful valley and the mountains bordering it have something for everyone. Learn more about places to stay and things to do in and around the region.
Photo: Mountain laurel in bloom in Shenandoah National Park by Bram Reusen.