Spring comes to the Shenandoah Valley region with a burst of bloom. In Shenandoah National Park, spring is a time of renewal and the welcome return of blooming wildflowers, migrating birds, and reinvigorated creatures.
Throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, flowering shrubs such as pink azaleas and mountain laurel supply bold masses of color, while dainty wildflowers brighten the forest floor. Shenandoah boasts more native species of plants than all of Europe with more than 1,100 species of flowering plants in the park, including 18 varieties of orchids.
The march of flowers begins as the lengthening days and warmer temperatures revitalize bloodroot and coltsfoot. In April, the periwinkle, dogwood, and columbine bloom, while birds are courting and building nests. May brings azaleas, golden ragwort, violets, and marsh marigold. From June, there is a vivid succession of black-eyed Susans, delicate Queen Anne’s lace, asters, mountain laurel, and evening primrose.
The peak of the spring bird migration is in late April and early May, when birds come to nest and breed in the Blue Ridge Mountains. When wood warblers, Canada warblers, blackburnian warblers, and black-throated blue warblers arrive, they fill the forests with trilling and songs. Two hundred species of birds have been observed in Shenandoah National Park.
The trees in their spring greenery are fully clothed from the northern red oak with its intricately lobed leaves to the tulip tree with its characteristically blunt-lobed leaves. Loose, curling strips of bark identify a shagbark hickory which, like the oak, produces a plentiful supply of nuts that afford fall and winter food for a host of wildlife. Shenandoah nurtures about 100 species of trees, 47 species of ferns and mosses, and hundreds of different fungi. The oak and hickory are the most common trees in the park.
Numerous animal species live in the park, from the rarely seen bobcat to the more common raccoon. Shenandoah is a sanctuary for 43 species of mammals and 29 species of fish. Researchers believe that the density of the black bear population at Shenandoah may be among the highest recorded anywhere within the natural range of the species. The beautiful and elegant white-tailed deer are abundant.
Be sure not to miss the much anticipated 3-month premier of spring now showing along the 105-mile Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/shen.