Tag Archives: Georgia Wildflowers & Native Plants

Cascade Falls Trail, Meriwether County

Cascade Falls, F. D. Roosevelt State Park

The Cascade Falls Trail is part of the Pine Mountain Trail, located within the F. D. Roosevelt State Park. Several waterfalls punctuate the trail, and while they may be small compared to better known waterfalls in North Georgia, they nonetheless provide great views. This post focuses on the trail as hiked from the WJSB-TV tower parking lot, just south of Warm Springs. The round trip to Cascade Falls and back is approximately 4.1 miles and will take about 3 hours with stops.

I’ll share the waterfalls first, since they are the main attraction, and then images from the trail.

Waterfalls of the Cascade Falls Trail, FDR State Park

Csonka Falls, F. D. Roosevelt State Park

Csonka Falls will be the first waterfall you reach on the trail.

Big Rock Falls, F. D. Roosevelt State Park

Big Rock Falls will be the next point of interest. It’s a great spot to take a rest.

Slippery Rock Falls, F. D. Roosevelt State Park

The third waterfall is Slippery Rock Falls, and it is my favorite spot on the trail.

Slippery Rock Falls, F. D. Roosevelt State Park

It’s another good rest stop, but the rocks live up to their name and are indeed quite slippery.

Cascade Falls, F. D. Roosevelt State Park

About 2.1 miles from the trailhead, hikers are at last rewarded with the highlight of the trail, Cascade Falls. Like all the waterfalls along the trail, it’s marked with a wooden sign.

Cascade Falls, F. D. Roosevelt State Park

The pool below the falls is a nice place to cool your feet in the summertime, and to take a rest before returning to the trailhead.

Cascade Falls Trail, F. D. Roosevelt State Park

This easternmost section of the Pine Mountain Trail is popular with hikers for its waterfalls, but the landscape of this area is equally interesting. It’s the most mountainous section of Georgia south of Atlanta.

The first part of the hike crosses relatively flat land.

The topography changes as the trail winds it way toward the falls, following Wolfden Creek, also known as Wolfden Branch.

The creek runs mostly parallel to the trail, but it crosses it 13 times.

One of the interesting features of the trail are the large rocks that seem to litter the woods.

They make good seats if you need to take a break from the walk.

You’ll also likely notice many fallen trees. They’re remnants of a 2011 tornado.

Past Slippery Rock Falls, the trail begins it highest rise.

For casual hikers, it can be a bit of a challenge.

Bumblebee Ridge is the highest point before reaching Cascade Falls, and offers nice views (and a bench).

Plants of Cascade Falls Trail, F. D. Roosevelt State Park

Early Spring is a great time to hike the trail, and you’ll encounter a variety of early wildflowers, and a reptile or two. Be careful of Copperheads, though, as this is prime habitat for the poisonous snakes.

Rhododendron canescens, light variety

Native azaleas were just beginning to bloom and were fairly common along the trail. I was here too early to see the Mountain Laurels, which reach the southern end of their range near here.

Viola pedata

Keep an eye out for one of my favorite native plants, the Bird-Foot Violet.

Oxalis

I found this Oxalis blooming in a crevice between two rocks. I believe it’s a Wood Sorrel, but am not positive as to which species.

Iris verna

A real surprise was this Dwarf, or Spring, Iris.

Purple-headed Sneezeweed, Berrien County

I’ve preliminarily identified this as Purple-headed Sneezeweed (Helenium flexuosum). Sneezeweed doesn’t get its name because of allergens but because certain species were used in early medicinal elixirs to induce sneezing. Medicinal use is strongly discouraged today because the live plants are known to be toxic to humans and cattle.

Spreading Pogonia, Ware County

Spreading Pogonia (Pogonia divaricata), also known by the prettier name Rosebud Orchid, is a rare terrestrial orchid found in Charlton and Ware counties in Southeast Georgia (other small populations likely exist). The Okefenokee region is one of the most biologically diverse in the state and spring is a great season to observe its abundant flora.

14th Street Dunes, Tybee Island

Convenient beach access points can be found from the lighthouse all the way down the island. Just remember that parking is never free on Tybee, and in summer a spot can be difficult to find.

Due to heavy erosion, sand is constantly being replaced in certain areas. The dunes are predominately natural, though.

As on all of Georgia’s barrier island, Tybee’s dunes are protected as turtle habitat and for myriad other animals and plants which call them home.

I was amazed to find this dune wildflower blooming in January, but the micro-climate on the coast yields many surprises.

Winter is actually a wonderful time to visit the coast, as it’s always less crowded and to me, at least, the stark colors and hues give it an otherworldly feel.

Glade Lobelia, Glynn County

Glade Lobelia (Lobelia glandulosa), though not overly common in this area, can be found along the Altamaha River.

Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve, Grady County

Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve is one of the true natural wonders of South Georgia (all of Georgia, really). And about ten years ago, it was almost turned into a real estate development. It’s located just off US Highway 84 near Whigham and there’s no admission charge, though donations are accepted. A new sign at the entrance indicates the bloom time as being between late January and early March, though the lilies seem to almost always bloom in the middle of February. It’s essential to follow the Preserve’s Facebook page to get updates on the bloom time, as they can be quirky and sometimes bloom en masse and at other times be quite sporadic.

Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum) are primarily an Appalachian species, favoring filtered sunlight on mountain slopes. So how did they end up here? Though there are a few anomalous populations in Southwest Georgia and North Florida, the Wolf Creek population is the largest in the world and thought to have appeared sometime during the last Ice Age.

If you came here and the Trout Lilies weren’t blooming, you’d still love this place. The gentle slope of the riparian forest makes for a good walk. I came this year about a week after the mass bloom and there were still quite a few scattered around the site.

Add to that the beautiful Spotted Trillium (Trillium maculatum) interspersed throughout and you basically have a mountain walk in deepest South Georgia.

The volunteer who greeted us at the entrance was so delightful and informative and we enjoyed talking with her. Grady County should be applauded for recognizing the importance of this resource and sharing it with the public. Instead of waiting for the state to recognize it and all the time that would take, Grady County took it upon themselves to promote and protect it. Highlighting important local resources like this isn’t just a win for the environment but a win for the local economy. We had lunch at a restaurant in Cairo, so yes, there is an economic impact, however small it may be.

Muhlenbergia, East Beach

Muhlenbergia is quite common in Georgia and is known for its bright pink blooms in autumn. It’s particularly nice to see in masses on the dunes.

Cloudland Canyon, Dade County

Through the acquisition of private lands beginning in 1938, Cloudland Canyon State Park was established in 1939, with much of the initial work being done by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as part of FDR’s New Deal. Until this time, the only access to most of Dade County was through Alabama or Tennessee so the State of Georgia and the CCC built Georgia Highway 136 to connect the park and the county seat of Trenton to U. S. 41 and the rest of the state.

The park is located on the Cumberland Plateau atop Lookout Mountain, where Daniel Creek and Bear Creek converge to form Sitton Gulch Creek. The site was historically known as Sitton Gulch. Characterized by a dramatic gorge cut by Sitton Gulch Creek, Cloudland Canyon is over a thousand feet in overall depth, with elevations ranging from 800 to 1980 feet.

One of the most-visited state parks in Georgia, Cloudland Canyon offers something for everyone. Primitive campers, as well as “glampers” utilizing one of the well-appointed yurts or cottages, can spend days hiking the canyon, accessing waterfalls, caves and other amazing features. I highly recommend adding this to your Georgia “bucket list” if you’ve never visited. Even if you’re not an “experienced” hiker, the the Overlook Trail adjacent to the main parking lot is relatively easy. The views at the main overlook (above and below) are well worth the effort.

Summer is a great time to see native plants, such as the Golden St. Johns Wort (Hypericum frondosum) seen below. This species seems to grow right out of the rocks in places.

Overlook #2 is a short hike from the interpretive center and affords wonderful views of Bear Creek Gorge. It’s usually quite shaded and a bit difficult to photograph.

From the Overlook Trail, follow signs to the Waterfalls Trail. A quick descent and strenuous steps characterize this hike, which I didn’t complete due to time constraints.

Even if you can’t make it all the way to the falls, enjoy the geologic formations, including this well-known rock overhang.

Wild Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) is somewhat common on this section of the trail.

Dissected Beardtongue, Ben Hill County

Also known as Cutleaf Beardtongue, Penstemon dissectus is a rare member of the beardtongue family and the only species in the region with deeply dissected leaves. It’s endemic to the outcrops and surrounding woodlands of the Altamaha Grit habitat; this population was discovered near Reuben’s Lake. There are only about 30 known populations, all in Georgia.

Lichens & Mosses, Irwin County

irwin-county-ga-alapaha-river-scrublands-lichens-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2016

The sandy ridges of the Alapaha River bottomlands are abundant with these lichens and mosses. On Crystal Lake Road, near the river, they blanket the right of way for nearly a mile.

irwin-county-ga-alapaha-river-scrublands-lichens-mosses-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2016

I don’t know enough about these species to say much about their biology, but they’re a beautiful sight and seem almost otherworldly. The dominant blueish-green variety in most of these photos is known as Dixie Reindeer Lichen, or reindeer moss locally, (Cladonia subtenius). It’s widespread in protected areas throughout South Georgia.

irwin-county-ga-alapaha-river-scrublands-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2016

The species seen below is known as British Soldiers (Cladonia cristatella), for the bright red “blooms”.

irwin-county-ga-alapaha-river-scrublands-british-soldiers-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2016