Bluebells: An Unexpectedly Showy Native Wildflower

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We transplanted a couple of Virginia Bluebell plants (Mertensia) when we moved from Walnut Knob in 1999, setting them into the bank across the creek in rich woods, as close to the environment from which we had taken them.

For years, they survived but not much more. Now they are spreading–both across the creek and below the back door along the branch. They have survived multiple trouncings by the dogs (ours and our perpetually-borrowed neighbor’s dog).

They have been stunning this year, at least early on, and now gone leggy as the maples begin to compete for sun.

We are surprised at how many visitors have never seen them growing wild. My first experience was in 1976. I had driven up from Wythe County to meet friends for the first time in Rock Castle Gorge the third week of April. They bloom a little earlier than that these globally-warmer years.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Great capture. I recall picture taking efforts of these while in the Smokies. It wasn’t easy to capture their spirit since they droop downwards and are low to the ground.