Toward the end of May I went back to Virginia to visit family, and I had arranged to spend a day in the eastern hardwood forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains which lie to the west of the farm where I spent at least some my youth. The Blue Ridge Mountains form part of the great Appalachian Mountain range which stretches 2000 miles from Alabama to Newfoundland and which also includes such sub-ranges as the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee, the Smokies, the Alleghenies, the Catskills and Berkshires, and the White and Green Mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont. The southern Appalachians are one of the world's most diverse temperate deciduous forests, and is an area with a large number of endemic species. The general north-south alignment of these mountains allowed species to shift readily during the Ice Ages, and the numerous long ridges and valleys serve as both barriers and corridors, in addition to which the varied landscapes, microclimates, slope aspects, elevational range and soils have provided the opportunity for many refugia areas which contain significant numbers of relict species. Interestingly, the Appalachians share with central China the distinction of having major relict habitats of the ancient forests that once blanketed the Northern Hemisphere, with plant species, genera and families that only occur in those two regions. There are more tree species here, 158, than anywhere else in North America, and 500 moss and fern species. My companion was an extremely knowledgeable friend whom I had not seen in many years who is the Biologist and Executive Director of the Wintergreen Nature Foundation. We spent an absolutely delightful day tramping through the amazingly green and dense forest communities, and it served to only whet my appetite to make this a yearly excursion. The 40-inch average annual rainfall that this area receives and a generally mild climate create a complex world of trees, ferns and wildflowers crisscrossed by creeks and streams that is vastly different from the environment which we in Southern California are familiar with. The Blue Ridge Mountains make up part of the central and southern Appalachians, It is a fantastic area and obviously in one day I was only able to get a glimpse of what is there, but I will plan future trips at different times of the spring. My visit this time was between two seasonal peaks which are the first week of May and mid-June, so next time I will try to hit one of those because there were lots of things in late May that were just finished or just getting started. I must say that since I was under pressure to keep up with Doug and see as many things as we could, I was not able to take as much time as I would have liked and hence some of my pictures are not of the quality I would normally expect. And I also should mention that I couldn't have gotten all the information I needed with regard to specific and generic epithets, taxonomic changes, and other botanical information if I hadn't just purchased a copy of the 1550-page Flora of Virginia published in 2012, a volume that is in every way comparable to our Jepson Manual. An asterisk next to the common name indicates a non-native taxon.

Yellow lady's slipper
Cypripedium parviflorum

Large-flowered trillium
Trillium grandiflorum

Bladder campion
Silene cucullata

Fire pink
Silene virginica
  Squawroot, Cancer root
Conopholis americana

Needle-tip blue-eyed grass
Sisyrinchium mucronatum
Dame's rocket, Night-scented gillieflower *
Hesperis matronalis
cf. Common starwort
Stellaria graminea

Rose azalea
Rhododendron prinophyllum

Ox-eye daisy *
Leucanthemum vulgare

Smooth yellow violet
Viola pensylvanica
Hay-scented fern
Dennstaedtia punctilobula
[Named for August William Dennstaedt, 1776-1826]

Golden ragwort
Packera aurea
[Named for John George Packer, 1929- ]

Flame azalea
Rhododendron calendulaceum
Yellow salsify *
Tragopogon dubius
Eastern teaberry, American wintergreen
Gaultheria procumbens

Wild blue phlox
Phlox divaricata


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