Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Northwest Georgia - Wildflowers, Birds, and Waterfalls

We spent a long weekend with two good friends in northwest Georgia.  We stayed in a cabin in Cloudland Canyon State Park and hiked in the park and in another area called the Pocket.  The weather forecast for the weekend was rain and thunderstorms, so we were prepared with full rain gear and glad to be staying in a cabin, rather than camping.

We arrived Friday night with enough time to take a short hike along the West Rim Trail before dark.  Just a few feet behind the cabin, the flowers started with Oxalis violacea (Violet Wood Sorrel) and Houstonia caerulea (Bluets).  Before long, we found Rhododendrons and budded out Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel).  The flowers are definitely a few weeks ahead of the flowers in Virginia and Maryland.  The blueberries along the canyon edge have already set their berries there. 

The next morning, we headed over to the Pocket, a major wildflower hotspot in northwest Georgia.  We hiked two trails.  The first is a boardwalk through the densest area of wildflowers.  This area was hit hard by storms this past winter and, in one place, the boardwalk had been destroyed by a mudslide, but there were still plenty of flowers.  Although the peak bloom in the forest was waning, we still saw three varieties of Trilliums, Phacelia bipinnatifitada (Fern-Leaved Phacelia), Sedum ternatum (Wild Stonecrop), and Polygonatum biflorum (Solomon's Seal), among other things.

The boardwalk leads to a short trail to a waterfall that appears to have formed from the collapse of a cave.  The walls behind the falls are coated in travertine, which is a form of calcite that forms in caves.  There was enough calcium in the water that the moss and plants on the rocks were coated in it, making them stiff and granular.  The area around the waterfalls was full of newts and salamanders, tadpoles, and small fish.

After returning to the parking lot, we headed up another trail that leads to the top of the falls, a number of meadows, a spring-fed pond, and an old farm.  The meadows were full of early summer wildflowers including Salvia lyrata (Lyre-Leaved Sage), Silene virginica (Fire Pink), Camassia scilloides (Wild Hyacinths), and Cygnoglossum virginianum (Wild Comfrey).  The surprising thing about the forest in the Pocket area was that there were no members of the Rhododendron family (which includes azaleas and mountain laurel) to be found.

Above the waterfalls, we passed through a meadow and started to hear a loud ruckus ahead of us.  As we rounded the corner, we realized it was a pond full of several species of frogs, all calling to each other.  The pond quieted down as we approached.  We decided to sit across the outlet stream from it to have lunch and pretty soon the frogs were at it again.   After lunch, we continued up the trail, following a dry creek upstream.  Eventually, we realized we should head back to the car.  On the way down, we followed a short side trail to an old barn in a meadow.  We didn't hike very far, but we had a great time exploring the area.

On Sunday, we spent the morning and early afternoon exploring Cloudland Canyon (above).  We hiked down to two large waterfalls and past a number of smaller ones.  The flowers were blooming in the canyon, including the Big-Leaf Magnolias.  Overall, I was surprised by how much the forest understory differed from that in Virginia and Maryland.  An example is that I only saw two Podophyllum peltatum (Mayapple) plants all weekend.

It was a great weekend spent with good friends and I can't wait to get back and explore the area more.  We also were extremely lucky on weather.  Aside from a few sprinkles on Saturday, we didn't get any rain.  Given how close we were to Tennessee, we were very fortunate. 

Lots of Pictures (click to enlarge).  Also, I have come up short on identifying one wildflower and one flowering tree.  I would welcome any suggestions as to what they are.

Houstonia caerulea (Bluets)


A large (body about six inches) lizard on the fence at Cloudland Canyon State Park.

Waterfall at the Pocket

Polygonatum biflorum (Solomon's Seal).  Note the difference between the flowers of P. biflorum and Smilacena racemosa (False Solomon's Seal) below.  Both are members of the Lily Family and the leaves look very similar.

S. racemosa (False Solomon's Seal)

Sisyrinchium angustifolium (Stout Blue Eyed Grass). This is a member of the Iris family.  Note the tiny grasshopper on the bloom.

Swallowtails at the pond with the frogs.

Camassia scilloides (Wild Hyacinths)

Cygnoglossum virginianum (Wild Comfrey)

Tiny spiders on grass.

The upper waterfall in Cloudland Canyon.

Trillium cuneatum (Toadshade Trillium)

 Medeola virginiana (Indian Cucumber Root)

This is the flower that I have not been able to identify.  The leaves are opposite and toothed.

This is the flowering tree that I have not been able to identify.  Thanks to the community at Backpacker Magazine's forums, I have figured this one out.  It is likely Calycanthus floridus (Sweetshrub).  The flowers have a rather rotten scent, which is typical of flowers this color.  The leaves are entire (not toothed).

 Another view of Cloudland Canyon.

No comments:

Post a Comment