As early as March, the forest begins awakening. Forsythia, Jonquils, and Violets of all varieties and colors are the early indicators of seasonal change. April features the blooming fruit trees, Dogwoods, and the emergence of the most common plant on Earth, the Bracken Fern. The real promise of spring is fulfilled in May. The April showers really do bring May flowers. The featured wildflower of early May is the Trillium. This 3 petaled flower, both “upright and nodding”, comes in many colors and shapes. The true naturalist can name them by variety. The rest of us can just appreciate their beauty. About the same time, Clinton Lilies, Showy Orchis, Lady Slippers, May Apples, Solomon Seal, and other flowers native to our mountains abound.
Toward the end of May, the Mountain Laurel and Flame Azalea add their white and orange blossoms to the mix. Sweet Shrub, Spice Plant, and Pepper Plants that share their color. Rhododendrons take June into July with “Rose Bay” being the dominant species on High Holly Mountain. Throughout the summer, Mountain Hydrangea, Pipsissewa, Yerba De Silva, Rattlesnake Plantain. Daisys, Lilys, and other colorful flora abound. The vines common to our mountain are Dutchman’s Pipe which are home to the caterpillars that change into butterflies and Lunar Moths.
August and September bloomers are generally Wood Asters in white, blue, purple, and yellow or are just weeds. The most prolific weed is Goldenrod. Completing the annual cycle is “Leaf Season” where the kings of the woods, the “trees”, dominate the lesser plants of the forest. The first to change is the Locust, which undramatically fade to brown as early as August. The first real color is the yellow Buckeye followed by the reddish gold of the Sassafras, the deep red of Sourwood, and the crimson of Virginia Creeper. A couple of weeks later the Red Maple, Hickory, Poplar, and Oaks follow suit. This colorful palette continues thru October, depending on weather conditions. The falling leaves stimulated by the strong breezes is a spectacle in itself. Soon we are back to the barren trees of November. Finally, there is the parade of Frasier Fir Christmas trees passing our park after having been recently cut by families returning home after their Thanksgiving holiday. This confirms the completion of yet another adventurous year in our beautiful mountains!
During the winter dormancy, the forest greenery consists of Rhododendrons, Holly, Conifers, Mountain Laurel, Christmas Ferns, and various mosses. The absence of leaves on the deciduous trees opens the view of mountains, streams, and boulder outcroppings obscured the rest of the year. This change creates a totally different feel emphasized by the frosty air and occasional snow covering.