April, my favorite month of the year, is when waves of colorful neo-tropical songbirds return from winter homes in Latin America, and when woodland wildflowers burst into all of the rainbow hues.
For me, there's no better celebration of this grand seasonal procession than the Georgia Botanical Society's annual three-day Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage—held each year in a different part of the state and offering several field trips to explore surrounding natural areas. Actually, this year's pilgrimage, held last weekend, was based in Chattanooga just across the Georgia line in Tennessee. Chattanooga was a good starting point to explore this year's focus area—the rugged Ridge and Valley region of the Appalachian Mountains of North Georgia and East Tennessee.
Here are excerpts from my notes:
“I opt for a day-long walk into Shakerag Hollow, an undisturbed cove mountain forest superbly rich in wildflower diversity adjacent to the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn…Our leader, Dennis Horn, an expert on Tennessee flora, says one of the special wildflowers here is the spotted mandarin, a whitish flower with purple spots…We spy it in bloom near a waterfall and take turns photographing it.”
"(On the) next day, we do a 5-mile, wildflower walk in Cloudland Canyon State Park in Dade County…We descend to the bottom of the canyon and exit at a botanically-rich section known as Sitton's gulch, near the town of Trenton…The scenery is superb…Our leader, Rich Reaves, says 12 species of violets bloom in the park…We spy most of them along the way."
“Another outing takes us to Rising Fawn Gardens, a private retreat in Dade County, where we find a profusion of blooming wildflowers, including a huge patch of Virginia bluebells along Lookout Creek.”
IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The annual Lyrid meteor shower will reach a peak of about 15 meteors per hour on Friday, April 21, in the northeast from about 2 a.m. until dawn.
The moon will be last quarter on Wednesday. Mercury is low, and Mars is very low in the west just after dark. Venus is low in the east just before dawn. Jupiter rises in the east just after dusk. Saturn rises in the east around midnight and appears near the moon tonight.