Shenandoah National Park: Lands Run Road

After our shuttle hike down and up Hickerson Hollow Trail, we went back across Skyline Drive, through the Lands Run Gap parking lot, and turned left down the wide Lands Run Road. This fire road is wide and well-maintained.

We were surprised at how popular it was, but soon found out that half a mile down the road is a waterfall – Lands Run Falls. It is a smooth and easy hike to just go to the falls, 1 mile round, and a popular option for families with small children. We couldn’t take any pictures of the falls from below because there were so many people there. The large volume of visitors was probably compounded by the fact that it was a fee free day in the park on a Saturday.

Fire roads are some of the best places to find a variety of wildflowers. We were happy to see many different kinds growing along Lands Run Road.

We saw these Dandelion-like puffs by the side of the road. Upon close inspection, we deduced that they must be what happens to Coltsfoot wildflowers when they stop blooming.

This is what they look like before (picture from Snead Farm Loop at the end of March):

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot, or Tussilago farfara, is a member of the Aster Family (Asteraceae) and blooms from February to June along roadsides and in waste places. This plant was introduced from Europe and now grows mostly in northeastern North  America. It was named “Coltsfoot” after the shape of its leaf. An extract from fresh leaves can be used for making cough drops and its dried leaves can be made into a tea.

Plaintainleaf Pussytoes

Plaintainleaf Pussytoes, Woman’s Tobacco, or Antennaria plantaginifolia, is a member of the Aster Family (Asteraceae) and blooms April to June. It favors dry open woodlands, meadows, and rocky places. A native plant, it grows throughout the eastern and central United States. The name comes from how the furry flower head resemble a cat’s paw.

This is what they look like all grown up. I previously posted what they look like when they are just starting to bloom.

Early Saxifrage

Early Saxifrage, Virginia Saxifrage, Everlasting, Lungwort, Sweet Wilson, or Saxifraga virginiensis, is a member of the Saxifrage Family (Saxifragaceae) and blooms April to June on dry rocky slopes and outcrops. A native plant, it grows throughout eastern and central North America.

We found a bunch of these peppering one of the dry hills on the side of the path.

Eastern Redbud Tree

The Eastern Redbud Tree, or Cercis canadensis, is a member of the Legumes Family (Fabaceae). You can see it’s vivid pink / magenta flowers blooming in April. It is one of the first trees to flower in spring. It grows in a variety of soils and climates, but is native to eastern and central North America.

I love Redbud trees. Their color is just stunning – a deep pink somewhere in-between pink and purple. I’m glad several towns in Virginia use this tree to decorate the sides of the roads.

Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil

Canadian Dwarf Cinquefoil, or Potentilla canadensis, is a member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae) and blooms March to June in dry open soil. A native wildflower, it grows mostly throughout eastern North America, but also some places in the south and mid-west.

There are several types of Cinquefoil – I identified this one from the shape of its leaves. Common Cinquefoil has larger leaves.

Dutchman’s Breeches

Dutchman’s Breeches, or Dicentra cucullaria, is a member of the Fumitory Family (Fumariaceae) and blooms April to May in rich woods. A native wildflower, if grows throughout eastern and central North America, as well as the Pacific Northwest. This is a favorite flower for bees, but is poisonous to cows.

I cannot express how excited I was to see these little wildflowers. Ever since I started taking macro photos of Shenandoah wildflowers and researching them in books, I’ve seen pictures of Dutchman’s Breeches and wanted to see them in person.

We were rushing along the easy path, close to the end, when my husband stopped me to point them out, growing by the stream. I practically shrieked in delight – and I’m sure he thought that maybe something was wrong – but I immediately explained how happy I was to see the little flowers. There’s something about them that is cute to me. And they’re photogenic, to boot.

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The end of Lands Run Road merges into a residential and farming area at the foot of the Shenandoah mountains.We bumped into an elderly couple who were staying at their cottage for the weekend. It turned out that the lady is a member of the Virginia Native Plant Society and told us about some of the invasive species growing in the area. When I told them which wildflowers were blooming up the trail, they knew exactly what I was talking about. It was great to connect with people who have similar interests! Most of the time my husband and I hike, I take pictures, and then research them later on my own.

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Lands Run Road is not the usual thin winding path through the woods that we enjoy the most. It’s wide, pebbled, and well-maintained. However, it is a pleasant and easy hike with a range of sights to take in – a waterfall, a stream, and many wildflowers (including Dutchman’s Breeches).

 

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