Plants and birds of the Elkin nature trail

Bloodroot is among the plants now blooming on the nature trail. - Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey
Hempatica - Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey
Virginia Heartleaf - Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey
Dimpled trout lily is one of the first plants to bloom in early spring. - - Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey
Christmas fern. - - Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey
Shining Club Moss. - - Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey
Screech owls. - - Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey
Great Blue Heron - - Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey
Wood Duck - - Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey
Belted Kingfisher - - Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey
Blue Jay - - Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey
Cliff Swallow - - Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey
Jack-in-the-Pulpit - - Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey
Eastern Bluebird - - Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey
Pawpaw tree - - Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Wildlife and wildflowers abound on the nature trail at Elkin Municipal Park, part of the E&A Rail Trail and Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Those taking it slow on the trail can glimpse a number of lovely flowers as well as many species of birds. Here are just a few of the plants and birds that visitors to the park can enjoy. How many have you seen?

In early spring the following plants can be seen. As spring turns to summer, even more flowers make appearances along the path.

Dimpled Trout Lily Erythronium umbilicatum — It’s both one of the first wildflowers to bloom in spring and one of the most beautiful with nodding yellow flowers that close up tight at night and gradually open the next morning. On warmer days, look for bumblebees visiting the nectar-rich flowers.

Trout lily is a classic example of a spring ephemeral. It emerges from an underground bulb as the soil begins to warm in late winter and dies back in spring as the canopy trees leaf out (thereby shading the forest floor). In a matter of just a few weeks it emerges, leafs out, flowers, sets fruit, and matures seeds. The rest of the year (10-plus months) it persists underground as a dormant bulb. So, enjoy this plant while you can as it will soon retreat to its underground refuge. Common in along the trail in scattered locations.

Round-lobed Hepatica Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa (Hepatica americana, Anemone americana) — The curious name “liverleaf” comes from the look of the lobed leaves in winter, which turn reddish brown, the color of raw liver. The common name “hepatica” amounts to the same thing, for it also means “liver” (as in “hepatitis”). “Bisexual flowers with pink, purple, blue, or white sepals and three green bracts appear singly on hairy stems from late winter to spring. Butterflies, moths, bees, flies and beetles are known pollinators. The leaves are basal, leathery, and usually three-lobed, remaining over winter.” Although the leaves you may find in early spring are darkly colored (last year’s leaf), the flowering season gives way to the production of new green leaves that are bright and very attractive. Uncommon, look for it on the high bank across from the first gong, second old railroad cut and along the cutover trail.

Virginia Heartleaf Hexastylis virginica Virginia heartleaf flowers appear early in the spring (April-May) but they are mostly invisible: they grow very low to the ground are often covered by leaf litter. If you are willing to dig around for them, you will see that the flower is a brown-to reddish-purple cylinder with three tiny lobes — they look like little jugs. Uncommon along the trail and found on steep slopes and moist hillsides.

Shining Club Moss Huperzia lucidula — Clubmosses are primitive plants. This means they do not have flowers or seeds, but reproduce through spores. Clubmosses are evergreen, so they can be found and identified all year. They are short plants, and a lot of them are trailing, or long and low like a ground-clinging vine. Historically, people used clubmosses for Christmas decorations, and the spores, which are quite flammable, were used in firework production. Shining clubmoss is a clonal evergreen “herb.” It most commonly spreads by layering. The aboveground shoots in the photo are 10 to 15 centimeters long and are partially buried each year by the deciduous litterfall. The buried part of the stem then forms roots and the end continues to grow. Thus the plant “moves” outward from an originating plant. The stem forks dichotomously. Spores are produced in the axils of the leaves and the masses of sporangia are the yellow dots at the base of each leaf.

Fan Club Moss — Diphasiastrum (Lycopodium) digitatum is known as groundcedar, running cedar or crowsfoot. A creeping, evergreen, rhizomatous clubmoss; giving the appearance of neat and orderly, miniature trees. Much used for holiday decoration as wreaths. This is a Lycopod rather than a flowering seed plant. Lycopods are among the plants known as fern-allies. Like ferns, it reproduces via spores from the club-like appendages above the plant. Fan Clubmoss resembles a dwarf cedar (Juniperus) or another conifer, but it is not closely related to these seed-bearing woody plants. Plants in the Clubmoss family are some of the oldest vascular plants on Earth. During prehistoric times, some members of this family were tree-sized, growing alongside giant horsetails and tree ferns. Some of these prehistoric plants were eventually transformed into the extensive coal beds that our civilization uses today.

Christmas Fern Polystichum acrostichoides — It’s unclear how the Christmas fern got its name. Some think it’s due to the shape of its leaflets, which resemble a stocking, an Elf shoe or a winter sleigh. It could also be that the Christmas fern is one of the few woodland plants still green in December and all winter long. Regardless of how it got its name, the Christmas fern is one of the most common ferns in eastern United States. It can be found in a wide variety of habitats and locations, particularly on shady hillsides and wooded stream banks. It typically grows in a fountain-like clump to 2 feet tall and features leathery, lance-shaped, evergreen fronds. Crosiers (young fiddleheads) in spring are silvery and scaled. Sori appear on the undersides of the pinnae only at the ends (last 1/3) of the fronds. Because the Christmas fern forms a dense covering over the soil surface, large colonial masses or even a small cluster of two or three can help stabilize the soil and provide excellent erosion control. It also generates a protective, concealing habitat for a number of native ground-feeding and ground-nesting bird species. Evergreen fronds provide good winter interest for the landscape and are a great addition for the backyard garden.

Bloodroot Sanguinaria Canadensis — Bloodroot is a stemless, rhizomatous, a native wildflower which blooms in early spring in rich woods and along streams throughout the State. Typically rises 6 to 10 inches tall and spreads over time in the wild to form large colonies on the forest floor. Each flower stalk typically emerges in spring wrapped by one palmate, deeply-scalloped, grayish-green, basal leaf. As the flower blooms, the leaf unfurls. Each flower stalk produces a solitary, 2 inches wide, 8 to 10 petaled, 1.5-inch diameter, white flower with numerous yellow center stamens. Flowers open up in sun but close at night, and are very short-lived (one to two days). Leaves continue to grow in size after bloom (sometimes to as much as 9 inches across) and remain attractive until mid to late summer when the plant goes dormant. All parts of the plant exude a bright reddish-orange sap when cut, hence the common name. Sap was once used by Native Americans for dyes. Rootstock is caustic and poisonous if ingested, but has been used medicinally for its antiseptic and emetic properties. Common in scattered locations along the trail.

Plant information courtesy of Joe Mickey, treasurer of the Elkin Valley Trails Association and retired fishery biologist and watershed enhancement coordinator with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

Bloodroot is among the plants now blooming on the nature trail.
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Bloodroot_-Sanguinaria_canadensis-_20150401_05EVTA-trail-formatted.jpgBloodroot is among the plants now blooming on the nature trail. Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Hempatica
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Hempatica_round-leaved_20130321_ElkinCr05-formatted.jpgHempatica Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Virginia Heartleaf
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Heartleaf_Vriginia_-Hexastylis_virginica-_20130321_1-formatted.jpgVirginia Heartleaf Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Dimpled trout lily is one of the first plants to bloom in early spring.
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Dimpled-trout-lily_20150317_6E-A-Trail-formatted.jpgDimpled trout lily is one of the first plants to bloom in early spring. Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Christmas fern.
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Fern_Christmas_-Polystichum_acrostichoides-_RBF_SMSP_7_26_11-formatted.jpgChristmas fern. Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Shining Club Moss.
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Moss_Shining_club_-Huperzia_lucidula-_3_10_12-formatted.jpgShining Club Moss. Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Screech owls.
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide01-formatted.jpgScreech owls. Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Great Blue Heron
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide02-formatted.jpgGreat Blue Heron Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Wood Duck
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide03-formatted.jpgWood Duck Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Belted Kingfisher
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide04-formatted.jpgBelted Kingfisher Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Blue Jay
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide05-formatted.jpgBlue Jay Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Cliff Swallow
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide06-1-formatted.jpgCliff Swallow Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Jack-in-the-Pulpit
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide06-formatted.jpgJack-in-the-Pulpit Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Eastern Bluebird
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide07-1-formatted.jpgEastern Bluebird Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Pawpaw tree
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide07-formatted.jpgPawpaw tree Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Wood Thrush
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide08-1-formatted.jpgWood Thrush Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Umbrella Magnolia tree
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide08-formatted.jpgUmbrella Magnolia tree Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

American Robin
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide09-1-formatted.jpgAmerican Robin Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Black Cohosh
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide09-formatted.jpgBlack Cohosh Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Northern Mockingbird
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide10-1-formatted.jpgNorthern Mockingbird Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Fleabane and Ox-eye Daisy
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide10-formatted.jpgFleabane and Ox-eye Daisy Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

European Starling
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide11-1-formatted.jpgEuropean Starling Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Common Yellowthroat
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide12-2-formatted.jpgCommon Yellowthroat Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Northern Cardinal
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide13-1-formatted.jpgNorthern Cardinal Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Jewel Weed
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide13-formatted.jpgJewel Weed Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Indigo Bunting
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide14-1-formatted.jpgIndigo Bunting Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Eastern Towhee
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide15-1-formatted.jpgEastern Towhee Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

House Sparrow
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide16-1-formatted.jpgHouse Sparrow Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Butterflyweed
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide16-formatted.jpgButterflyweed Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Cranefly Orchid
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide17-formatted.jpgCranefly Orchid Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide18-1-formatted.jpgRuby-throated Hummingbird Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

American Germander
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide18-formatted.jpgAmerican Germander Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Square-stemmed Monkey Flower
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide20-formatted.jpgSquare-stemmed Monkey Flower Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Tufted Titmouse
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide21-1-formatted.jpgTufted Titmouse Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Indian Pipes
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide21-formatted.jpgIndian Pipes Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Carolina Chickadee
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide22-1-formatted.jpgCarolina Chickadee Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Cardinal Flower
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide22-formatted.jpgCardinal Flower Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

White-breasted Nuthatch
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide23-1-formatted.jpgWhite-breasted Nuthatch Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Rose Pink
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide23-formatted.jpgRose Pink Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide25-formatted.jpgDowny Rattlesnake Plantain Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Indian Sea (River) Oats
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide26-formatted.jpgIndian Sea (River) Oats Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Jerusalem Artichoke
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide27-formatted.jpgJerusalem Artichoke Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Green-headed Sunflower
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide28-formatted.jpgGreen-headed Sunflower Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Joe-Pye Weed
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide29-formatted.jpgJoe-Pye Weed Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

New York Ironweed
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide30-formatted.jpgNew York Ironweed Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey

Wingstem
https://www.elkintribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/web1_Slide31-formatted.jpgWingstem Images courtesy of Joe Mickey and Ron Storey
A mini nature trail guide