We hope you enjoyed participating in the Readers’ Poll for last month. The question we posed was: Which was your favorite place for a nature walk? Choices were the Cliffside Loop Trail; the Highlands Plateau Greenway; and Highlands Botanical Garden.
You chose: Highlands Botanical Garden.
Our question for June is what is your favorite plateau wildflower?
Straddling the Eastern Continental Divide in a temperate rainforest, our area boasts the highest floral diversity in North America. Wild plants decorate the forest with a riot of color and fragrance advertising their beauty to pollinators and humans alike. Many of these plants, known as ephemerals for their short season of productive growth, will disappear back into dormancy, not to be seen again until next spring.
With such diversity, it was hard to choose only three. But they are: Painted Trillium, Bee Balm, and Flame Azalea.
Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum): This trillium has a slender stalk, 8-16 inches high, with a whorl of three large, blue-green leaves. The flower, white with purple markings, is borne above the leaves on a short, arching stem. Bright-red fruits appear in early fall. This is a perennial. The erect, stalked flower has an inverted, pink V at the base of each white, wavy-edged petal.
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma): This showy fellow is an escapee from New England. It makes its home down this way where hummingbirds and other long-tongued insects revel in it. It is also known as bergamot (yes, Earl Grey tea lovers!). It has showy, scarlet flowers in large heads or whorls at the top of the stem, supported by leafy bracts, the leaflets of which are pale-green tinged with red. Its square, grooved, and hard stems rise about two feet high, and the leaves which it bears in pairs are rather rough on both surfaces.
Flame Azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum): This is a native plant and is used as an ornamental locally, as long as it’s placed in its favorite acid soil. A wide variation of color forms occurs, from all shades of yellow to orange-yellow and scarlet. The moniker of flame comes from not only the bright color of these flowers, but if you catch them early enough in the season the unopened buds can look like orange-red candles.
To vote, please visit our Facebook Page at facebook.com/TheLaurelMagazine. Write-in suggestions are welcomed and we hope you enjoy your wildflower adventures. Why not let us know what you found by posting your photo on our Facebook page?
by Jenny King | Photo by Christina Ramsey