Revisiting Kentucky 3 years later in the spring...part 3


A rather portentous visit to one of America's great National Parks--Mammoth Caves. Biggest cave system in the world (300 miles and counting). I was disappointed to find the verges of the path crowded with garlic mustard: with the thousands of daily visitors, surely they could hire a few weeders? The last blog was written at the end of April, but the season was so advanced then that this time we encountered a whole different palette of plants. Part three, you say? The other parts may or may not be forthcoming...it was a fabulous trip that could produce another six blog entries, but the season marches on!

Saxifraga virginiensis
This trim saxifrage was on every shady slope. Hundreds of them around the cave--maybe thousands. We found these in several nearby spots--on moist, shady cliffs and slopes.

Saxifraga viginiensis duking it out with Bignonia capreolata

Saxifraga above, Sedum ternatum below.

Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
These looked as though they'd just come up!

Phlox divaricata
Blue phlox is so variable!
Julian Campbell alongside escaped Pyrus calleryana
Bradford pear has escaped into the wild--here are two husky specimens in an abandoned field alongside our guide--the amazing field botanist Julian Campbell who lives in Lexington and travelled with us the last time we visited.

Gleditsia triacanthos
Now THOSE are thorns--I wonder if they slowed down the mammoths at all?

Viola pedata
We were so fortunate to have Julian, who'd scouted things out. He knows Kentucky like the back of his hand! I've never seen birdsfoot violets looking so perfect before--dozens on the hard, limy clay alongside a road: I always thought they demanded acid soil!


I took this picture to show the variability: two very different seedlings growing next to one another--a giant on the right!



And here was an albino...I was tempted to dig it...


And my favorite of the lot...you can tell I was crazy about these!



Violets growing with pussytoes: the pussytoes are dead easy--why do the violets have to be such a challenge?

Prunus munsoniana

One of four wild plums that grow in Kentucky!

Julian raising cane!
Several species of native bamboo have been delineated in recent years--this is
Arundinaria gigantea,which grow near streams and can get nearly 20' tall. It burned badly this past cold winter.

Lithospermum caroliniense
Another fabulous native: puccoon--which grows all the way to Colorado.

Prunus americana
The American plum in Kentucky was more upright and less wicked than our scrubby little things. I love the fragrance on this plant!

Cercis canadensis
The redbuds were glorious everywhere in Tennessee and Kentucky: we returned to Denver at the peak of redbud season, and they're glorious for us too. In the East, however, I noticed that they tend to be smaller than ours, and more delicate:


Bonanza: a hillside practically smothered with Trillium flexipes var. walpolei (most forms of this species are white flowered.

Trillium flexipes var. walpolei

Dutchmen's briches (Dicentra cucullaria)
Why does this plant leap over the Rockies and grow in the Columbia River valley in the Palouse prairie of all places. A truely annoying geobotanical riddle, that!

Isopyrum thalictroides
This rue-anemone look alike grew in vast mats everywhere in Kentucky as far as I could tell (in moist forests that is). Not many nurseries sell this.

Jeffesronia diphylla and Stylophorum diphyllum
These diphylloid endemics of the Midwest are garden classics: but to see them abounding in nature is one of the great pleasures of traveling for me. A plant in wild is worth two in the garden, to maim a cliche.

Trillium flexipes var. walpolei
More flexipes. Sorry....I was smitten!
More Isophyrum

Mertensia virginica
The bluebells/chiming bells/languid ladies were everywhere. I love this thang (the local twang is getting to me!)
MORE Mertensia

More isopyrum duking it out with Hydrophyllum

Phlox divaricata and Polystichum acrostichoides unfurling at right.
Another wonderful clump of phlox growing with a bevy of cool plants.

And more Trillium flexipes var. walpolei
The dang flexipes was everywhere...here with a choice woodland Cerastium which makes a great contrast!
Trillium flexipes var. walpolei

Dicentra canadensis
I was surprised to see squirrel corn growing right next to Dutchman's britches (who says "breeches"?). They look so superficially similar in leaf--but the flowers and co
Proof I was there! Trillium flexipes var. walpolei

Trillium flexipes var. walpolei

Our guide, Julian and Trillium flexipes var. walpolei

Julian and a cliff...
Julian not only LOOKS like a sprite, he prances around like a woodland spirit: I've met few keener botanists in my day.
Asplenium (Camptosorus) rhizophyllum
And I finish with one of my favorite plants: the walking fern (which refuses to walk for me)...

Thank you, Kentucky, for a fabulous week of plants, generous people and fun. Now back to work (grunt, groan, moan)...

Comments

  1. It is too bad the American Hart's Tongue Fern does not grow at Mammoth. That would seem to be ideal habitat.

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