|Thunder storm moving up the Shenandoah Valley south of Luray, VA.|
|Mounds of blooming virgin's bower were a common |
sight along the route. This particular photo was
taken near Cherokee, NC.
We started at the northern end of skyline Drive in Front Royal, VA. All along the way we saw numerous wildflowers in bloom. Plants we could ID at 35 mph were eastern Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium dubium), several species of sunflowers (Helianthus sp.), wild bergamont (Monarda fistulosa), threadleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata) and tons of virgin's bower (Clematis virginiana). We did manage to finish Skyline Drive then jump out to I-81 to get down to Marion, VA so that we would have an easy drive into Asheville the next day.
Later on in the trip we drove the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Cherokee, NC. Here we saw similar plants in bloom but maybe different species from further north. A couple that I feel pretty sure about here was spotted Joe Pye weed (E. maculatum) and thin-leaved sunflower (Helianthus decapetalus).
|This spotted Joe Pye weed was growing on a steep slope next to |
the Blue Ridge parkway. The leaf shape and the purple stem are
clues that this is, in fact, E. maculatum.
|While I didn't ID this sunflower on-site, I think it is thin-leaved |
sunflower (H. decapetalus). Some clues are the large teeth
on the serrated leaf, the long bracts under the flower head
and the purplish stem.
|View to the northwest from near the Craggy Gardens visitor center.|
|These Alum Root were growing out of a north-facing rock wall |
at the Craggy Gardens visitor center.
|This thistle patch was popular with the butterflies. |
Here's one of the few Monarchs we encountered.
In addition to the plants, we did come across some interesting animals. We had a small bear cross the road in front of us on Skyline Drive (no chance to take a photo). We saw a lot of eastern swallowtails (Papilio glaucus), but only a couple of Monarchs.
The craziest insect we saw was a fast moving caterpillar which I believe to be of a pipevine swallow tail (Battus philenor). I'm not sure where it was headed, I didn't notice any pipevine nearby, but it could have been in the undergrowth.
|This pipevine swallowtail caterpillar was racing across a retaining wall at a scenic outlook|
on I-81 from TN to NC. It's fleshy antennae were waving around wildly.