A Wildflower Wander at Sharon Woods Was My First Lesson in Botany

Growing up, I liked to look at a fragile little book on my grandmother’s bookcase called Flower Guide: Wild Flowers East of the Rockies. What made it especially appealing was the fact that it belonged to Grandma when she was a little girl. 

The 1913 book by Chester A. Reed was Grandma’s trusted reference for years. When I was accepted to Sweet Briar College — a 3,250-acre naturalist’s dream in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, with six nature sanctuaries, two lakes and an extensive network of trails — Grandma and I pulled out her book and read the page on the Sweetbrier, or Eglantine, rose so we’d be well-versed on my new school’s symbol. 

Paging through the book last night, I noticed how perfectly its frontispiece summed up my visit to Sharon Woods Metro Park earlier in the day for a “Wildflower Wander.” 

Frontispiece and title page, Flower Guide: Wild Flowers East of the Rockies, by Chester A. Reed

Spring Hollow Lodge was the starting point for “My First Lesson in Botany.” After inviting us to sample her homemade violet jam and ground ivy tea, Anna Creswell led the way along the trail, with about 50 of us hoofing along behind her. 

Before we had taken our first few steps, Anna had already pointed out Garlic Mustard, Shooting Star and Field Pussy-toes. As we checked off the “Common Blue Violet” box on our copy of the Metro Parks’ Spring Wildflower Checklist, Anna told us that there are 75 different species of violets in Ohio. Whether purple, white or yellow, we learned that all the parts of the violet are edible. Nestling beside the violet was a healthy patch of ground ivy with violet-colored flowers. Anna explained that its square stem signified its status as a member of the mint family.

Next came brambles of wild raspberries and blackberries, Multiflora Rose, Virginia Creeper, Phlox and Skunk Cabbage.

Wild Ginger…Anna Creswell showing Wild Ginger, Sharon Woods

Golden Ragwort…

Golden Ragwort, Sharon Woodsand Wild Geranium, or Cranesbill, followed.Wild Geranium, Sharon Woods

 As we admired pawpaw trees…

Pawpaw tree, Sharon Woodsand Ohio’s state wildflower, the Large-Flowered White Trillium, I heard two barred owls having a long conversation. I hoped for the best as I maneuvered around patches of poison ivy to see an off-trail example of Showy Orchis, the final highlight of the tour. 

Back at home, I broke out a new tube of Dionis Blue Ridge Wildflower hand cream, a favorite fragrance that evokes memories of my four years of college in the Virginia countryside. I first started treating myself to this luxurious stuff first at the Sweet Briar Book Shop, and then at Virginia Born and Bred in Lexington.  What could be better than coming home from my week at Washington and Lee this July with a stash of Dionis Virginia Hyacinth products?

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