Parkway Wildflowers


I caught a flash of orange-red out of the corner of my eye, off in a morning meadow beside the Blue Ridge Parkway. “California poppy escaped from cultivation” I thought, but pulled off the shoulder anyway, because these small but colorful flowers were nicely backlit against dark morning shadows in stark contrast to the plant’s brilliance.

But as I walked closer through the damp grasses and ferns, I could tell this was not poppy, but Indian Paintbrush–an uncommon wildflower in my experience. Here they pose along with Golden Alexander.

The botanically-best thing about the Parkway is that there is almost always a place you can pull over, get out and explore.

And almost anywhere you do that, if you take your time and wander off into the woods, you’ll find something of interest.

But remember: the Blue Ridge Parkway, while it is the nation’s LONGEST national park, it is in many places only a hundred yards wide, and then, you’re on private property. So go with this thought in mind.

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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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