Wildflowers and Butterflies:
Venture to the Higher Reaches of the Blue Ridge & Mt. Mitchell
June 22, 2017
It was sprinkling very lightly with rain as we assembled to head into the Blue Ridge. Although the overcast conditions felt great for us, I didn't think our luck was great for finding any butterflies. The first part of the morning proved us correct – not one sighting of any lepidoptera! We enjoyed a pretty good selection of summer birds, although most were heard rather than seen, due to the dense vegetation at this time of the year. A male Scarlet Tanager showed himself very well as he sang from an open perch.
A family of Black-and-White Warblers fed near us, but most were hidden in the leaves. Many of the typical late-summer wildflowers were still in bud, whether we called them "Lions-foot" or "Bear's-paw". A walk down one of the shaded trails produced a lovely stand of Anemones (Thimbleweed) and a stop along the roadside produced a nice early-summer stand of Flowering Spurge, a few flowers of Pale (yellow) Jewelweed and the intense purple blossoms of Spiderwort.
As we climbed in elevation several Rhododendrons were coming into flower, including Great, Catawba and the immaculate Flame Azalea. Thankfully the sun came out around lunchtime, and along with that a few butterflies. Pipevine and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails started nectaring on the Yellow Buckeye and a few Orange Sulphurs fed in the roadside flowers. We finished the day atop Mt Mitchell's new tower. It was quite the panorama from the summit, and very evocative when a Common Raven flew by – certainly a beautiful day in the Blue Ridge.