When we think of fall, we tend to think colored leaves more than bright blooms. Now that October is upon us, we can certainly look forward to the show of blazing foliage here in the mountains. But don’t forget the late fall and summer blossoms that also add color. Late summer and fall is a time for asters, nodding lady’s tresses (a.k.a. Devil’s knitting needles), Joe-pye weed, soapwort gentian, lion’s foot, and virgin’s bower, to name just a few.
Jim Parham’s Wildflower Walks & Hikes: North Carolina Mountains was reviewed this month by Senior Hiker Magazine. In our opinion, the timing is excellent: fall is the best time to hike in these mountains. Although Jim’s guide doesn’t pretend to list every wildflower in the forest, the more than 300 thumbnail photos provided to help with identification do include plenty of autumn blossoms. Check out the back of the book for a bloom chart that includes elevation variables and mountain native plant habitats, from rocky streamside to heath bald. Depending on what you’re looking for, this information can be helpful in planning fall wildflower outings. The hardy blooms that show their faces in October are every bit as interesting and lovely as their May counterparts, and they often persist well into November.
So this year, consider a fall wildflower hike. There are many options. Plan a visit to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, DuPont State Forest, the easily accessible Blue Ridge Parkway, or the more remote Amphibolite Mountains of North Carolina’s High Country—or one of the other destinations described in this new book. You’ll certainly enjoy the cooler weather, clear views, and sparser crowds—and you may learn something new about blooming native plants in the woods.