Today, I went on the last field trip for the Virginia Master Naturalist 07-08 class. As part of the training committee which organized this year's course, we chose Wildwood Park in Radford, Virginia because it is a great example of a park smack inside of a bustling town. Popular with dog walkers, bicyclists, joggers, and nature lovers, the park probably owes its protected status to the fact that it on an unbuildable site (notwithstanding the major road that park proponents stopped years ago). A creek runs thru the narrow strip of land with steep hills on both sides.
Our field trip was led by Frank Taylor, who teaches biology at Radford High School and David Garst, wildlife biologist from West Virginia. Frank can bring his students right outside to a nature wonderland and great outdoor lab because the school is just uphill from the park.
The north hillside was covered with wildflowers growing on rich soils.
The Large-Flowered Bellwort was particularly striking, growing 15 inches in height with flowers over 2 inches long.
Dutchman's Breeches created a great looking ground cover.
Wild Ginger was a hard-to-find treasure. I have learned to spot it by looking for the leaves which have the texture of velvet (think velour).
The Wild Ginger flower hides at the base and underneath the leaves. Gnats pollinate and then lay eggs in the flower but the Wild Ginger has its own pesticide which kills the gnat larvae so the flower can go to seed (source: Wildflowers of the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains). What a tricky flower!
Another tall plant was the Spring Larkspur. On the walk back, some naturalists used binoculars to see Dogtooth Violets on the steep south hillside, too far away for me to photograph. These flowers are pretty so I am glad they are in such a remote location because gardeners might be tempted to dig them up.
At the entrance or exit of the park, I photographed this most unusual road cut. Water flowing over the cut has created a menagerie of colors, shapes, and textures from the algae, moss, and iron in the limestone.
On the drive back, I noticed the trees on the hillside were just beginning to leaf out. The light green color with the purple of the blooming redbud reminded me of Easter.
What a great spring day!
For more information about Wildwood Park, go to: