I started out my love for photography through taking photos of flowers in gardens. I lived within Washington DC proper at the time, so I’d go to Dumbarton Oaks Gardens every few weeks and capture the flowers through the year. When I met my husband in DC several years ago our first date was at the U.S. Botanic Garden on the Mall, where he showed me for the first time how to use a DSLR camera.
A year ago my husband and I began hiking. We started out small with Great Falls and Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland, and then moved on to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. For our honeymoon we went hiking in Shenandoah’s Central District, including Old Rag Mountain, Hawksbill, and the Appalachian Trail (AT). My love of floral macro photography moved to the mountains. We’ve gone hiking almost every weekend since.
I thought I’d start a blog to document the lovely flora of the Shenandoah Valley, both in Shenandoah National Park and George Washington National Forest. So, here it goes!
The hike to Double Bear Rocks starts on Pass Mountain Trail just off the road a little out of Sperryville. The route we went on was a shuttle – going back and forth along the same trail. Along the steep climb going up we found this gem:
Striped Wintergreen, or Chimaphila maculata, is also sometimes known as Pipsissewa, and is native to North and Central America. Of the Wintergreen family (Pyrolaceae), the nodding fragrant flowers favor dry woods and bloom in Shenandoah National Park from June to August.
After a long climb, the ground leveled out close to the AT. Also close to the AT was a cabin for hikers, which is maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. Near there we saw some bright red Wild Columbine.
Wild Columbine, or Aquilegia canadensis, belongs to the Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and blooms in Shenandoah National Park from April to September. These vividly colored flowers native to North America often grow on rocky, wooded, or open slopes in bright sunlight. The tubular spurs contain nectar that attracts hummingbirds and long-tongued insects.
The path was very wooded and dark, however, so for most of the journey we didn’t see flowers. But when we got to the AT, which connected to Pass Mountain and an overlook of the Shenandoah Valley beyond it, we saw much more variety of flowers. This is likely because these areas get more sunlight. Some Wild Columbines still dotted the path, and Wild Bergamot was starting to bloom. The wildflowers we encountered on the AT also included:
Poke Milkweed, or Asclepias exaltata, belongs to the Dogbane family (Apocynaceae) blooms June to August in Shenandoah National Park. It is often found on forest edges and woodland openings, including along Skyline Drive.
I especially loved this one because I think it looks like a spaceship and I’d never seen it before.
Fly Poison, or Amianthium muscitoxicum, belongs to the Lily family (Liliaceae) and blooms June to July in Shenandoah National Park. It favors bogs, open woods, and low sandy sites. The species name comes from the Latin muscae (“flies”) and toxicum (“poison”) because a pulp made from its crushed bulb mixed with sugar can be used to poison flies.
Wild Indigo, or Baptisia tinctoria, blooms all along eastern North America. In Shenandoah National Park it blossoms May to September. It favors dry fields and can grown in full sun or partial shade. Its Genus name comes from the Greek bapto (“to dye”) because it yields a blue dye, not unlike, but inferior, to indigo.
These little round yellow pods were cute, and I must say, a new favorite of mine!
We completed the 8.8 mile hike in 5 and a half hours (you have to factor in photographing time!). It was a good trail, with tall trees in the forest that looked dramatic in the morning mist.