Spring Wildflowers on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The promise of refreshing walks in the woods, colorful blooms, and a greener landscape on the Blue Ridge Parkway are bright spots during these stressful times. If you’re headed out to appreciate the diverse wildflowers that herald the season’s arrival, here are tips for the best viewing and staying safe.

To plan your wildflower excursions, look to the trees for signs of the best opportunities. When leaves begin to bud, it’s a good time to head out. Don’t miss the cue, because once the leaves begin to fill in the canopy, the flowers are fading, explained Chris Ulrey, plant ecologist with the Blue Ridge Parkway.

There are more than 1,600 vascular plants that call the Parkway home, and about 80 percent are wildflowers, according to the National Park Service. The abundant rainfall, moderate climate, and diverse habitats, from fields and forests to ridges and coves, contribute to the wondrous variety of Appalachian flora.

Bloom times vary greatly depending on elevation and direction of the slopes, so if you miss a flower bloom at a lower elevation, you can still catch the show at a higher vista. “As you go up in elevation, you go back in time,” explained Chris Ulrey, plant ecologist with the Blue Ridge Parkway. “Spring starts in the valleys and finishes on the peaks. A flower can be blooming on a peak a month behind the lower elevations.”

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