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A Wildflower Walk: Spring Ephemerals Emerge in the Parks

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Spring is the time when we see some of the most beautiful rewards for the Team for Healthy Parks’ work. Thanks to their ongoing invasive plant management, spring ephemeral flowers begin to emerge. Ephemeral flowers are those that bloom in the spring for only a short amount of time. Native ephemerals are the first sources of food for many insects, providing nectar and pollen when much of our natural areas are still dormant. It is absolutely magical to take a walk through the Wildflower Woods trail in Cherokee Park and see millions of white Dutchman’s Breeches dancing on their stems with the slightest breeze.

Try this to truly immerse yourself in the beauty of the season: Enter Cherokee Park near the Daniel Boone monument and look to your right for the stone steps to the Wildflower Woods trail. While you walk the trail, look for yellow wood poppy, and white to faint pink spring beauty. Once you have completed the trail, cross the loop and walk to your right to enter the Baringer Spring trail. Look along the path for yellow trout lily, and along the waterway for the blue Virginia bluebell flowers.

Fifty years ago this month, Cherokee Park lost 80% of its tree canopy to the 1974 tornado outbreak. While the storm initially exposed formerly shady woodland habitats to sunlight, persistent honeysuckle began to take over the park. Cherokee woodlands become choked off with monocultures that prevented sunlight from reaching acorns and other seeds. Huge thickets of vines choked out perimeter edge trees. At least 10 problematic invasive plant species greatly increased in population, and the woodland health was stressed to the brink.

Now that the Team for Healthy Parks and dedicated volunteers have spent almost 20 years removing bush honeysuckle, vines, and other invasive species, pollinators and people alike can delight in the gentle spring wildflowers’ emergence in wave after wave of flowers over the next few weeks.

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