Sixteen people joined us for our walk yesterday morning with John DeMary at Balls Bluff in Leesburg. John started out by making sure we all had the Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide and doing a practice run of “keying” a wildflower plant while we assembled in the parking area.  It was a nice refresher on how to use the book which is an excellent guide once you learn how to use it…..I’ll admit, I personally resisted for awhile, preferring picture guides, but I’m now one of the converts. :)

As we started out into the woods, the morning chill (about 55 degrees) kept many of the wildflowers in their closed white_troutlily_balls_bluff_4_18_09night time slumber but within about 30 minutes, as soon as the sun started to hit them, the forest floor was carpeted with the tiny white flowers of Spring Beauties and others.

We saw 26 different wildflowers in bloom and many others getting ready to bloom soon.  The ones in bloom yesterday were: Jack-in-the-Pulpit, White troutlily, Yellow troutlily, Toad shade, Wild ginger, Pussytoes, Blue cohosh, Virginia bluebells, Garlic mustard, Smooth rockcress, Cutleaf toothwort, Star chickweed, Redbud, Squirrel-corn, Dutchman’s breeches, Wild geranium, Squaw-root, Spring beauty, Shooting star, Rue anemone, Bluets, Virginia saxifrage, Speedwell, Blue violet, Smooth yellow violet, and Small flower crowfoot.

The bluebells carpeted the floodplain area while Spring beauties carpeted the upland forest area. Troutlilies covered areas of the banks and the bluets were sprinkled in along the trail.  We did our part throughout the walk to pull the invasive garlic mustard but boy is there a lot of it there – choking out bluebells and others.

In addition to the wildflowers, we had great views of a Barred Owl that watched us as we learned the difference between stinging nettle and garlic mustard, Ruby-crowned kinglets that flitted through a scrubby area along the trail, painted turtles that basked in the sun along the river, gray tree frogs calling, a couple of huge centipedes, and mourning cloak butterflies. 

Oh, and did I mention the snakes (heh heh) – yea, it was *really cool* – a few of us went up to an area where black snakes live and saw three wonderful ones coiled around a branch, warming up, and perhaps selecting mates.  It was wonderful. We also saw a few garter snakes slipping through the leaf litter, no doubt in search of tasty earthworms or beetles for lunch.