In our continuing effort to observe natural plant communities in and around the Georgia Piedmont we took another field trip on March 14 to the Pocket Loop Trail in the Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area. ‘The Pocket’ is often billed as the best wildflower viewing area in Georgia. It’s still a little early in the season as far as blooms go, but there was plenty to see.
The trailhead was fairly easy to find. The last turn off of Hog Jowl Rd. (such a great name) was kind of like turning into a neighborhood with little signage, but about a half mile down the road there were DNR signs. Here’s a map if you need directions. The first part of the trail up into the Pocket is a raised boardwalk known as the Shirley Miller Wildflower Trail. The boardwalk protects the delicate ephemerals and all the other plants in this floodplain from human feet. It also prevents ground compaction from foot traffic, which can have a devastating effect on the underground parts of many plants.
The sides of the boadwalk are lined with Spicebushes (Lindera bezoin) which were just starting to flower and extend their leaves. The flowers bloom before the leaves unfold and flatten out. Another interesting aspect of this plant is that it is dioecious, meaning that there are male and female plants. The flowers are so tiny that it can be hard to distinguish the males from the females, but I think I learned how with the help of a hand lens.
Here’s a better look close up. These are male flowers. You can just barely make out some globular yellow tufts of pollen on the tips of the anthers. Note my thumb for a size reference. The female flowers are incredibly similar, but they have an ovary in the center with a stigma (looks like a white hair) emerging from it. I couldn’t get a good close up of the female flower, but the other thing I noticed is that most of the flowers open were male. Only a few females had their blooms starting to open, which is a good strategy, as the males need to be fully in bloom with mature pollen grains as the female flowers become receptive to pollen.
The Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) had their foliage up, but were not quite ready to bloom.
A few were trying really hard though.
Plenty of Liverworts (Hepatica acutiloba) were blooming amongst the leaves of Trilliums.
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) was putting on a similar show amongst Trillium and Geranium leaves.
The Celadine Poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum) were so close! I was bummed I didn’t get to see these in full bloom because I love this flower. I suppose I will have to return in a few weeks.
The Phacelia (Phacelia bipinnatifida) were just starting to open as well, but this one had a bit more sun, so it went ahead and gave us a show.
Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera) was also blooming farther up the trail.
The culmination of the half mile or so after the boardwalk ends is the waterfalls. The limestone/sandstone geology of the area gives it an interesting stepped/cascade form.
Some really good examples of sedimentary deposition planes.
As I said at the beginning, we headed out there just a little early to catch the peak of the trillium bloom, so there’s still time if you want to explore this amazing area in full bloom!