Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day Hike at Weverton Cliffs on the Appalachian Trail

We did another long, strenuous bike ride on Skyline Drive on Saturday, so on Sunday we decided to do an easy out-and-back on the Weverton Cliffs section of the Maryland Appalachian Trail.  Last year, we found all kinds of interesting wildflowers on this section and we hoped this year would be the same.  We started a little later than usual, but the weather was just perfect:  bright, sunny and in the high sixties.  Ten minutes up the trail, we found purple and magenta Tradescantia virginia (Virginia Spiderwort) scattered on a hillside along with Oxalis violacea (Violet Wood Sorrel).  I've seen O. violacea before in Georgia, but not in the mid-Atlantic (which only means I had not been looking the right places or at the right times).

We continued up the hill to the junction with the short Weverton Cliffs trail, where we continued north on the Appalachian Trail.  At the top of the ridge, we stopped on some rocks just off the trail to have lunch.  Something caught my eye on a pine tree:  someone had put a small plaque on it memorializing their dog.  It must have been a place that they enjoyed visiting with their canine companion.  It sort of made us sad since it reminded us of the loss of our four-legged hiking partner last year.  Putting plaques on trees is generally discouraged and I wouldn't do it, but I can understand the sentiment that would lead someone to do so.

Further north, we found the grove of Asimina triloba (Paw Paw Trees) that we saw last year.  We were lucky enough to see them in bloom again.  As I've mentioned before, the larvae of the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly feed only on the leaves of A. triloba.  On the way back through the area at the end of the day, we actually saw one of the butterflies, too.  After about 4.5 miles, we decided we should probably turn around and head back.  It had been a lovely day in the woods, but we had some chores to do.  We did nine miles or so and saw a lot of flowers, one of which was new to me and I still haven't positively identified.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 Tradescantia virginia (Virginia Spiderwort)
 Oxalis violacea (Violet Wood Sorrel).  At the bottom center of the photo, the tell-tale shamrock-shaped leaf can be seen.
A decent-sized garter snake near where we took a break.  It was probably 2 feet long, uncoiled (we didn't bother it to find out for sure. 
 Vaccinium stamineum (Deerberry).  This is a relative of blueberries and produces fruit, which are not edible.
 Silene caroliniana (Wild Pink)
 Podophyllum peltatum (Mayapple)
 Asimina triloba (Paw Paw tree)
 A toad trying to avoid detection in the middle of the trail.
Arisaema atrorubens (Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Indian Turnip).
Cypripedium acaule (Pink Lady Slipper)
 Rhododendron nudiflorum (Pink Azaleas, Pinxter) along the trail.
Thanks to the head of Old Rag Mountain Stewards for help with the identification:  Aralia nudicaulis (Wild Sasparilla).   This is the flower I haven't been able to identify.  It forms these round clusters (about 1.5 inches in diameter) at the top of a stalk that is about 12 inches tall.  The stalks had several round clusters on them.  The leaves are in the photo below.  Any help would be appreciated.


  1. LadySlippers!?!?!? Very jealous. My Spiderwarts just started blooming.

  2. The unidentified flower on the 12 inch stalk reminds me of one of the endangered plant picture cards in the ORMS notebook.

  3. Thank you for the help. I finally got around to correcting the entry.

  4. I enjoy reading this blog. It's fun to see what wildflowers others are finding out there. I see you are using some of the new names; Newcomb's Wildflower Guide is getting more and more out of date. One great resource for the latest taxonomical info is Alan Weakley's Flora, available as a free download pdf here:


    This is a tremendous resource, though the terminology can be daunting. Weakley is one of the principal authors of the long-awaited and eagerly anticipated Virginia Flora, which you can read about here:


    Sometimes Weakley differs from other authorities; for instance, plants.usda.gov still has Corydalis sempervirens, which is now Capnoides sempervirens according to Weakley. Interestingly, they both have the common name as Rock Harlequin, which I think is an improvement over Pink Corydalis. I was sort of sad to see Michaux removed from both the common and scientific name of Saxifraga michauxii, which Weakley has as Hydatica petiolaris, Cliff Saxifrage.

    Another great resource for this hobby is this online atlas, which shows which counties in Virginia a species is known to occur:


    Speaking of pennywort, Henry Heatwole mentions in his revered guide to SNP that he found three species along Weakley Hollow fire road that are otherwise uncommon in the park: Pennywort, Water Carpet, and Sweet Pinesap. I have seen lots of Pennywort there, especially splendid this year, but not the water carpet (Chrysosplenium americanum). And although I have not seen the sweet pinesap (Monotropsis odorata) along that road, I did see it, or rather, smelled it then found it, a few feet off the Old Rag Saddle trail, first last April and then again this year in the same spot. It blooms in late March and early April; about the only other flower scenting the air then is Trailing Arbutus, which occurs on the Old Rag Ridge Trail. So if you smell something sweet next year then, look for the source!

    Heatwole is worth checking for his wildflower notes on trails in the park. You can access a revised version of his guide here:


  5. Someone posted a comment with a bunch of links to some great wildflower resources. It looks like it was either lost or deleted. I just wanted to say that I appreciated the comment and will find the links useful (and yeah, Newcomb's is increasingly out of date...it is too bad because it is laid out in a really nice way).