George Washington National Forest: Kennedy Peak Part 1

Back in October, we went to Kennedy Peak in George Washington National Forest. It was our second time doing the hike, and we enjoyed it just as much as the first time! Although it is 9.2 miles, the terrain is not very difficult and it features a great summit view, with a shelter/viewing platform at the top.

Of course, various Asters were in full bloom at the time!

Bushy Aster

Bushy Aster, Rice Button Aster, or Aster dumosus, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and blooms August to October. It favors sandy, open sites and sometimes marshy ground. A native wildflower, it grows along most of the east coast of North America, as well as in southern states, and Ontario. It is most widely found in southern states. This plant grows up to three feet tall and it can be white or pale lavender in color.

I had trouble figuring out what type of Aster this flower is. At first I thought it was a Stiff Aster, because of the sparse and thin leaves, but the leaves on Stiff Asters are longer and more regular.

It seems like it might be:

Short’s Aster

Short’s Aster, or Symphyotrichum shortii,  is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and blooms September and October. Native to North America, it grows throughout the east and Midwest, but not in New England. It attracts pollinators such as butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. Its seeds attract a wide variety of birds: cardinals, finches, sparrows, thrashers, , chickadees, nuthatches,  and turkeys.

Pictures from this resource identifying Short’s Aster look very similar.

Actually, the following flower also appears to be a Short’s Aster, based on the lower leaf shape.

While there was a smattering of Asters near the parking lot, going into the forest we were met with less luck. I find this is often the case – the wildflowers enjoy sunny waste spaces. Usually in the forest they will not get as much sunlight.

Now, after enjoying the flowers near the parking lot, the hiking can begin.

You can go clockwise or counter-clockwise around the loop. If you go clockwise, the incline is steeper and the trail is longer to get to the top view point. Anticipating a lot of people would arrive at the summit by lunch time, we went counter-clockwise and took the shorter & easier route in order to arrive at the summit early.

Continue to Part 2

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