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Old 08-31-2008, 05:16 AM
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Default Roan Mountain Ramble Reveals High Country Wildflowers

For those interested in wild flowers, here's an article about some found on Roan Mtn. The link has some great pictures of them.

Roan Mountain Ramble Reveals High Country Wildflowers
By: James Drake
Published: August 23, 2008

Even a veteran wildflower hunter expects surprises and new adventures from each return to a well-worn trail or favorite botanizing spot, no matter the number of previous visits. Such was the case during a mid-July sojourn along a section of the Appalachian Trail that meanders up and over higher elevation mountains known as "balds."

Practically splitting the line between North Carolina and Tennessee, this leg of the AT, crossing several peaks and gaps collectively known as Roan Mountain, offers some of the most magnificent scenic panoramas and beautiful flora imaginable. The staggered blooming times of the diverse wildflower inhabitants ensure unique events changing virtually from week to week during the growing season. In fact, this July hike was preceded by a late June stopover during which Catawba rhododendrons and flame azaleas were fully plumed.

Rhododendron catawbiense, an endemic shrub of higher elevations, occurs in several Southeastern states. A tendency to form large, dense masses creates spectacular views during the flowering period when multitudes of the richly colored purple blooms appear. Severe pruning of the shrubs caused by harsh winter conditions produces a manicured appearance.

Flame azalea, Rhododendron calendulaceum, is one of the most widely cultivated of North Carolina's native azaleas. Growing wild on Roan Mountain, patches of this deciduous shrub ranged in color from red-orange to yellow. One particularly showy bunch exhibited unusually bright lemon-yellow attire.

The aforementioned July excursion, basically a hike, included representatives of the Western Carolina Botany Club, the N.C. Native Plant Society and graduate students involved in botanical research. The group leader is an adjunct professor at East Tennessee State University.

Among the goals of this outing were: counting surviving numbers of the rare Gray's lily, Lilium grayi, and bent avens, Geum; examining a population of mountain bluets, Hedyotis purpurea var. montana; and checking on the herd of goats which had been tasked with maintaining the "balds" by eating down vegetation. One duty of the trip leader was carrying drinking water to the enfenced capricorns. The group departed from Carver's gap parking area, and proceeded along the trail leading up the first bald.

For this July visit, gone were the rhododendron and azalea blooms, which had been replaced by subtler, but no less lovely floral displays. Isolated stems of the threatened and endangered Gray's lily gallantly peered through entanglements of blackberry and other invading species. Along the trail, mats of delicate creeping bluets, Hedyotis michauxii, were intermingled with the taller yellow-flowered St. John's wort, Hypericum. Blueberry bushes were laden with soon-to-be-ripening fruit.

One of the surprises of this outing involved a non-native fauna, Canis lupus familiaris (dog), variety beagle. During the return trip, a crowd had gathered along the trail up ahead. Upon approaching the scene, the source of fascination became apparent. A lost beagle, which appeared hungry and dehydrated, was being cared for by four hiking companions. Others had also stopped to try and help.

After receiving donations of food and water from bystanders, the dog, subsequently christened "Carver," seemed to feel better, yet not well enough to walk alone. By combining efforts and taking turns, a group was able to carry Carver back to the parking lot. Fortunately, his rescuers cared for him until a permanent home was found. One often meets some of the nicest people on the trail.

Roan Mountain is but one of the amazing features of our Southern Appalachians. Multitudes of people enjoy the beauty of this special place. Since everyone shares responsibility for protecting natural resources, we all must remember that digging or disturbing protected wildflowers is strictly prohibited.
Here's a link to the original article:
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