Last week, Dr. Evans led the students in Dr. Yu’s Child, Family, and Community Development in Rural Appalachia psychology class on an adventure to discover the history of the King Farm. In order to learn some common spring plants, I took my camera on the trip.
King’s Farm can be accessed through gate 11 of Breakfield Road. What looks like a good camping clearing is actually a home site complete with roads, farm, and garden – all can be uncovered through reading the landscape. However, I will not spoil the associated story for the curious and instead direct you towards a great honors thesis presentation given about the plant community at King Farm.
While I followed the class and listened to the narrative, I found all sorts of interesting plants and animals as would be expected. King Farm is interesting in that it is former agricultural land that was allowed to grow over – however, the soil pH is still unusual due to fertilizer, and some uncharacteristic species grow as a result. The common perennial wildflower Virginia Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) was growing at the base of a Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum).
Many arthropods were active this warm spring day – the common Green Stink Bug (Chinavia hilaris) stood out among the brown leaves of the forest floor, while a brown Bush Cricket (Family: Tettigoniidae) was more subtle. I saw a plant with a strange looking gray mass, which turned out to be tiny spider hatchlings scurrying around on it. I suspect that these are Orb Weaver (Micrathena) spiderlings.
Further into the King Farm, near the former garden, we saw a common orchid, the Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens). More rarely, we saw the hairy leaves of Wild Comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum), or as Dr. Evans called it, Blue Houndstongue.
The students nearly stepped on a newly emerged Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) before noticing it. Still covered in mud, the turtle appeared to have just left his hibernaculum. The turtle’s reddish eyes indicate that it is male, whereas females have brown eyes.
As we walked around the long-abandoned roads and neared the former orchard, we saw Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum), Crane Fly Orchid (Tipularia discolor), and Halberdleaf Yellow Violet (Viola hastata).
Spring is the perfect time to see wildflowers and other interesting plants, so keep an eye out!