Bull Run Mountains loop

veiled mysterycoral brancherAfter our recent heavy rains, the woods were exploding with mushroom fruiting bodies on today’s field trip to the Bull Run Mountains, under the auspices of the Virginia Native Plant Society and the Prince William Wildflower Society, host to the VNPS’ annual meeting. I wish that I had had such conditions when I was working through David Farr’s mushroom class last year.

repose5 mos. 2ds.We hiked a state preserve property managed by the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy. The trailhead (within earshot of I-66) is on Beverley Mill Road, which parallels Virginia 55 through Thoroughfare Gap. Moving north, we crossed the railroad and moved into the area that was once the managed by the Chapman family. The family cemetery is compact, with most of the markers representing nineteenth-century passings, some of them quite premature.

long gonelate bloomerAt the ruins of Meadowland, the family home, late-blooming Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) (in the Aster family) was still going strong. Smartweeds around here were prevalent, and I made a note to bone up on my Polygonum knowledge.

Our group was quite large, and it was only after we split into smaller groups to make the climb to the ridgeline that things felt completely organized. There was a temptation to hang back with the fern and lycophyte specialist leader as we moved up the Fern Hollow Trail—the hollows of this mountain are jumping with lycopdodium and other spore plants—but I pressed on with the climbers.

easy climbinglooking westThe ascent is fairly gentle, rising about 850 feet in 2 miles or so to the High Point Overlook. (The return felt a little more crumbly.) Going up, we paused to ID Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida). But the destination pine for this trip is Table Mountain Pine (P. pungens), found at the High Point overlook. The overlook, accessible through the indulgence of private property owners, is just over the line in Fauquier County, by my map reading. Also near the summit, False Foxglove (Aureolaria spp.) was isn bright yellow flower.

one flowermany flowersComing back down, parasitoids seemed especially easy to find. Both species of Monotropa (Indianpipe in the left image and Pinesap in the right)…

nice and freshand a Broomrape family member, Beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana). This is a lovely natural area completely new to me, visited by not too many people, not far from D.C. (It’s just a few miles beyond the Gainesville split.) I will make it a point to return.