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Spring flowers in South Mountains

MATT SCHNABEL
Special to the LTN
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Spring is a beautiful time of the year, with the temperatures warming, birds singing and many wildflowers starting to put on their annual show of colors.
Each species is unique with various shapes of flowers and leaves, scents ranging from sweet to pungent and colors covering the spectrum of the rainbow. If you visit the park during April, slow down on your hike or ride, look to the forest floor, and you may see some of the following flowers.
Bloodroot is one of the earliest bloomers of the spring with a single white flower and a uniquely-shaped, single leaf with 5 to 9 deep lobes. The poisonous roots have a bright red-orange sap (hence the name “Bloodroot”) that was used by some Native Americans in painting the skin and as a natural insect repellent.
Wake-robin trillium is one of a number of trillium species present in the park. Trilliums all have a single whorl (growing in a circle) of three leaves and a single flower in the center. The wake-robin trillium’s flower is pollinated by flies attracted by its maroon color and ill scent.
Violets are a very common flower in our area but one unique species at the park is the Halberd-leaved violet. It produces a yellow flower shaped like other violets, but its leaves are much larger and arrow-shaped.
The crested dwarf iris is unique in that its sepals (modified leaves that protect the petals) look like the petals of the flower. The sepals are bluish/purplish and have a whitish crest near the base. The leaves are short when the plant blooms but may grow up to a foot long during the summer.
A very showy flower in April is the foamflower. It sends up a flower stalk 8 to 18 inches high with numerous white flowers. Its leaves resemble that of a maple leaf, are hairy and often have purplish veins.
A very common flower that you will see along many trails in the park is the ox-eye daisy. It will grow 1 to 3 feet tall. It is a member of the composite family (along with sunflowers, asters, thistles) so its flower head has yellow disc flowers and white ray flowers.
South Mountains State Park has more than 100 different species of wildflowers blooming from March through September so you can see something different every time you visit. Remember that all plants, minerals and wildlife are protected in all of our state parks and should be left alone so that others can enjoy them. Stop by our office and pick up a wildflower blooming guide to help you find the locations of the different flowers and to see which ones are blooming.

Upcoming Programs
Friday, April 14, 10 – 11:30 a.m. — Wild in the Woods! Bring your kids on their day off of school for fun, outdoor hands-on activities and games where they will learn about our wildlife. Ages 4 – 9. Meet at the park office.
Saturday, April 22, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. — Earth Day on the Greenway. Catawba Meadows Ballpark in Morganton off of N.C. 64 Bypass (Sanford Drive). There will be tons of fun hands-on activities all related to our natural world for kids of all ages. You could receive a tree to plant, learn about hybrid vehicles, play games or examine the Catawba River for aquatic life … just to name a few activities!
Saturdays in April, 1 – 3 p.m. — Spring wildflower hikes will be held every Saturday during the month of April and the first Saturday in May. A ranger will lead these moderate two-mile hikes. Meet at the park office.
Space is limited and pre-registration may be required for some of the programs. You can register by calling (828) 433-4772. All programs are free.

Directions
South Mountains State Park is located in Burke County, 24 miles west of Lincolnton. From Lincolnton, travel 15 miles west on N.C. 27 and make a right turn onto N.C. 18. Travel two miles and make a left turn onto Old N.C. 18. Travel five miles and make a left turn onto S.R. 1901 (Ward’s Gap Road). The park is off S.R. 1901 on S.R. 1904.
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Matt Schnabel is a ranger at South Mountains State Park. His column appears monthly.

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