The Wildflowers of Shenandoah National Park

Posted: 2/1/2017 12:00:00 PM

Wildflowers abound in Shenandoah National Park, providing a beautiful and varied display throughout the growing season.

The display begins in early Spring (late March) as the hepatica (Anemone amencana), and bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) push their way through the forest leaf litter. As the days continue to warm, purple and yellow violets flower (Viola spp.), and the large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), pink lady's slippers (Cypripedium acaule), and wild geraniums (Geranium maculatum) appear within the forest.

In spring and summer, the small blue and yellow flowers of bluets or Quaker ladies (Houstonia caerulea) line many trails. May is the time for pink azaleas (Rhododendronspp.) to bloom in the forest and along Skyline Drive, followed by the white flowers of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) in June. Summer is the time for flowers such as columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), milkweed (Asclepias spp), nodding onion (Allium cernuum), ox eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), and turk's cap lily (Lilium superbum) to bloom. Also in summer, look for the yellow and orange flowers of touch-me-nots (Impatiens spp.) along streams and near springs, and countless spiked blooms of black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) rising above the forest floor.

The Park's growing season concludes with a strong display of goldenrods ( Solidago spp.), asters (Symphyotrichumspp.), and wild sunflowers (Helianthus spp.) into the fall. Late in the season, the unmowed banks of Skyline Drive and the Big Meadows area are great places to see late blooming wildflowers.

Click here for a list of more frequently seen wildflowers and a calendar of when they bloom.

Wildflowers comprise 862 species, or greater than half of the 1406 vascular plant species found in Shenandoah National park. Almost 20% of these species are in the aster (Asteraceae) family. The next most abundantly represented wildflower plant families are the pea (Fabaceae), lily (Lilaceae), mint (Lamiaceae) and mustard (Brassicaceae) families. The rich diversity of wildflowers in the park is particularly evident in spring at the lower elevations along streams such as South River, Hughes River, Rose River, and Mill Prong. 

Did You Know? Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of trails. Over 30% of the trails are in designated wilderness areas which are often blanketed with wildflowers (and bees!)

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The National Park Service turned 100 in 2016.