One Wild Weekend

Annual Wildflower Event Returns To Shenandoah National Park

Posted: April 24, 2014

Daily News-Record

This year, Shenandoah National Park will celebrate Wildflower Weekend on May 3-4. (Courtesy of the National Park Service)
Park Ranger Mara Meisel points something out during the annual Wildflower Weekend at Shenandoah National Park. (Courtesy of the National Park Service)
Wildflower Weekend events are free, with paid admission to the park. (Photo Courtesy of the National Park Service)

Spring’s arrived in the Valley, and according to Park Ranger Mara Meisel, Shenandoah National Park is ready to celebrate the season with its annual Wildflower Weekend event to be held May 3-4.


“Frogs are starting to sing, bears should be out of their dens, once the temperature warms up, everybody’s out. …  That’s what spring is all about and that’s what we celebrate on Wildflower Weekend: new life,” remarked Meisel, the event coordinator.


The two-day affair offers a variety of guided hikes and programs, all intended to educate visitors about the park’s more than 850 species of flowering plants.


“We try to make the programs so that there’s something for everyone,” Meisel said, explaining that hikes vary in difficulty.


Among the flowers that may be in bloom: yellow and pink lady’s slippers, jack-in-the-pulpit, wild geraniums and the large-flowered trillium.


“Everyone loves the trillium,” added Meisel. “It’s popular because it’s large and people can see it — it’s hard to miss.”


As the event generally draws 300 to 400 visitors, Meisel says the park relies heavily on the help of volunteers.


“The volunteers we have here are wonderful [and] very knowledgeable,” she praised.


“Wildflower Weekend takes a lot of work and we don’t have a lot of staff so we’re very grateful for the help.”


Volunteer Marjorie Prochaska, who will be leading the Wilderness Ramble — a two-mile hike along the Skyland-Big Meadows Horse Trail — says she’s eager to share her appreciation for nature with others.


“This is the first year I will have led a hike; I’m very excited,” she remarked.


Along the hike, Prochaska — a Virginia master naturalist and the former president of the Piedmont Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society — will point out varying plants and shrubs.


In addition to hikes, there will be a panel discussion, titled “Rooting out Invasive Plants,” led by volunteer Kevin Heffernan, a stewardship biologist with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.


“It’s letting people know about invasive plants and what everyone can do to help reduce the impact of invasive, usually non-native plants,” explained Meisel. “It’s a neat program that has relevance to a lot of people.”


Prochaska agrees that it’s an important issue. Pointing out that native insects and plants “evolved together,” she says too many imported plants could be harmful to local insects.


“I’m not saying get rid of your tulips and daffodils …  but we want and encourage the nourishment of plants that occurred here naturally,” she said.


“If we want to protect our insect population, we need to protect our native plants.”


Wildflower Weekend activities are free with the price of park admission. No pre-registration required.


For more information, visit  nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/wildflower-weekend.htm.

Contact Katie King at 574-6271 or kking@dnronline.com.



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