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Spring wildflowers are blooming: 5 places to find them

By Joe Miller | February 28, 2020 | Explore NC, Healthy Lifestyle

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For the last decade or so, I’ve started keeping an eye out for the first signs of spring beginning the second or third week of February. Usually, the spring peepers are the first to signal the pending change; I heard my first of the year on January 12 in a vernal pool near Jordan Lake. But the true harbingers of spring for me are the wildflowers. These delicate denizens of the forest floor seem to know when it’s safe to come out, bloom and get their life-sustaining business done before the hardwoods bloom and soak up the sunlight. According to Dave Cook’s “The Piedmont Almanac,” this typically occurs in the third week of February, when, “On slopes with southern exposure, the first trout lilies and spring beauties might adventurously bloom.”

Not the case this year. I saw my first spring beauty on Feb. 3 and my first trout lily two days later.

Meaning? Despite recent snow and a spate of cold weather, spring wildflower season is upon us.

[box type=”info”] You may wonder why Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) has me share blog posts about hiking or this spring wildflower post. It’s because they know a hike can serve as a reboot for your body. It also allows you the necessary time to center yourself, gather your thoughts and get your blood pumping. A short hike helps your body and soul and the Blue Cross NC mission is to help improve the health and wellbeing of North Carolina. Inspiring readers to get outside for a hike or a stroll is one way to do that.[/box]

5 spots to finding spring wildflowers early in the season:

Raven Rock State Park

Location: Lillington

According to the park’s website, “One of the best reasons to visit Raven Rock is the exceptional beauty of its wildflowers. A variety of species reveal magnificent blossoms in early spring. Look over patches of Dutchman’s breeches, bloodroot, saxifrage and trailing arbutus. Gaze down paths lined with Solomon’s seal, bellwort and spring beauty, or let your eyes wander through a haze of greens and yellows as leaves break their winter dormancy and begin to color the forest.”

 

Best bets: Campbell Creek and Little Creek loop trails.

Plan your visit starting here.


Eno River

Location: Durham and Orange counties

So prolific are the wildflowers along the Eno River that the Eno River Association annually devotes a weekly series of Sunday afternoon hikes to them, with each hike targeted to the area where blooms are most likely to be occurring. Their Spring Hike Series starts March 8 with a 1.2-mile hike in the Cabelands area of Eno River State Park in search of spring beauties and trout lilies in the floodplain. The following Sunday promises a who’s who of area wildflowers at Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve, where, nature permitting, you might see Dutchman’s breeches, the rare eastern false rue anemone, bloodroot and trout lily.

Best Bets: Consult the Eno River Association Spring Hike Series (below) for current blooms and hike destinations.

Plan your visit starting here.


Grandfather Mountain State Park

Location: Linville

It’s no surprise that one of the most diverse biospheres in the world would have a wide array of wildflowers. French botanist Andre Michaux was one of the first to study the flora of North America in the 1700s and spent considerable time at Grandfather Mountain, which has a dozen distinct ecological zones. Now, before you freak at the thought of visiting Grandfather Mountain, known for its rocky, rugged spine and volatile weather, be advised that that’s more the case atop the nearly 6,000-foot massif. Near its base, at around 3,500 feet, the weather is more hospitable, the terrain less intimidating. Traditionally, the park conducts a series of spring wildflower hikes starting in early spring; keep an eye on the park website (see below) for when the hikes will start.

Best Bet: Profile Trail on the mountain’s northwest flank.

Plan your visit starting here.


South Mountains State Park

Location: Connelly Springs

South Mountains is surprisingly close to both the Triad and Charlotte. Despite its proximity to these metro areas, it is, oddly, a quiet and serene place to visit. Considering that at more than 18,400 acres it’s North Carolina’s biggest state park, that’s a lot of room to roam unobstructed. Not that you need to hike into the park’s interior for spring color: along Jacobs Branch and the park’s other streams, you’ll find wood anemone, Jack-in-the-pulpit, lady slipper and foam flowers, most of which can be found within a mile of the main parking area.

 

Best Bet: Jacobs Fork Trail

Plan your visit starting here.


Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Location: Nags Head

Think of Jockey’s Ridge and you think of the sifting sand dunes believed to date back 3,000 to 4,000 years that reach up to 60 feet above the nearby Atlantic Ocean. But Jockey’s Ridge isn’t entirely about sand; in fact, the barrier island preserve is ideal for spotting a range of coastal wildflowers, from the yellows of dune camphorweed and smooth bur-marigold to the fire-wheel blanket-flower and trumpet honeysuckle. A great excuse to visit the coast in what many consider the offseason.

 

Best Bet: Soundside Nature Trail

Plan your visit starting here.