Saturday, June 17, 2017 from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM EDT
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Bill Moll 
Wild Ones - Tennessee Valley Chapter 

Pickett State Park - Members' Hike 

Join other members of the Tennessee Valley Chapter of Wild Ones for a trip to see some rare and unusual native plants of Tennessee.  The hike will be led by Park Ranger Travis Bow.  This trip is FREE for Wild Ones members.  Please register separately for each participant.

Pickett CCC Memorial State Park lies within the 19,200-acre Pickett State Forest, and is adjacent to the massive 120,000 acre Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.    

Dramatic sandstone cliffs, stone arches, rock shelters and rushing mountain streams make Pickett State Park on the Cumberland Plateau a scenic wonderland. Unique microclimates form around these geologic formations, creating havens where diverse flora and fauna thrive.

In Tennessee, Pickett is second only to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in biodiversity. Rare plants, such as Cumberland sandwort, Lucy Braun’s snakeroot, and rockhouse featherbells grow along trails. Some trail areas have boardwalks, allowing visitors to see these beautiful plants while protecting the flora from damage.

In 1933, the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company donated nearly 12,000 acres of land to the State of Tennessee to be developed as a forest recreational area. Initial development of the area by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) occurred between 1934 through 1942. 

The CCC constructed hiking trails, five rustic cabins, a recreation lodge, a ranger station and a 12-acre lake. The park memorializes and preserves the unique work of the CCC who first developed the park.

Our group will leave from the Hixson/TN 153 Wal-Mart parking lot at 8:00 am EDT.  We will arrive at Pickett for a wildflower walk from 10:00 am CDT to 11:30 am CDT.  Then we will have a short lunch (BYOL) followed by a longer walk concentrating on plant communities, ending around 4:00pm CDT.  This hike was arranged based on Bobby Fulcher's October 2016 presentation at the monthly meeting of the Wild Ones, Tennessee Valley Chapter.

The drive to the park from the Chattanooga area is about three hours, so carpooling is very desirable.  One carpool will stop at Bacaras for dinner, a restaurant a few miles from the park.  

There are cabins available at the park, with a two-night minimum and a weekend supplement. A campground is also available.  Please make your own arrangements directly with the park if you choose to extend your trip.

Bring your own lunch - no food services are available at the Park.  There is no cell phone signal at the park.  

Pickett State Park and Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area were named a Silver-tier International Dark Sky Park for their commitment to preserving the natural beauty of the night sky.  Bring your telescope if you decide to stay overnight.

The following is a list of organisms that are especially at home in this section of the Cumberland Plateau: 

Minuartia cumberlandense (formerly Arenaria cumberlandense) Cumberland sandwort: Hazard Cave and Ladder Trail and several other rockhouses and rock walls including the Natural Bridge.  Federally endandered. Should be plenty of them still in flower.   Dr. Gene Wofford of UTK along with Dr. Kraal of Vanderbilt named this as a new species.  

Silene rotundifolia, roundleaved catchfly or firecracker flower: Hazard Cave and Ladder Trail and almost all other rockhouses and rock walls.  Should be some in flower.  This cliffhanger is one of the delights of the northern Plateau.  Sometimes a clump can be found on the sandy floor at the foot of a bluff. 

Ageratina lucia-brauniae, Lucy’s Braun’s thoroughwort:  Hazard Cave in the wet drain in front of the rockhouse.  Previously listed a Federally-threatened species. Should be in flower, but flowers are not showy.  Still, Lucy B. was amazing, so honor the plant. 

Orfelia fultoni, Fulton’s fungus gnat: The bioluminescent larvae will be emitting in front of Hazard Cave when it’s good and dark.  Special!  These are also found around many other rockhouses and rock walls including Natural Bridge.  Look for these both on the seeps at the bottom of the rockhouse cliffs and among the sandwort, as well as in wet, sandy areas beneath the rhododendron in front of the rockhouse.  Turn out the lights and let your eyes adjust to the dark and their deep blue lights will begin to reveal themselves.  They typically emit until July.  A few even later.  Prime time is late May. 

Stewartia malcodendron:  Should still be flowering in the understory throughout the open oak-pine woods in the park.  Visible on Lake Trail, Maybe on Natural Bridge Trail.  The trees are about the size of dogwoods, white petals and golden and purple stamens. Spectacular.

Lygodium palmatum, climbing fern:  The only native climbing fern in NA, is found in the southern end of the Plateau sparingly.   In Pickett it can create some huge masses.  Should be seen quite a bit when you get into a moist environment like the Ladder Trail or the Lake Trail.  You should find plenty of the smaller fertile leaves with sori on the backside.

Magnolia macrophylla, bigleaf magnolia: a spectacular plant that will be in fruit.   Probably too late to see a flower, but, the leaves are obviously a special feature.  They can be 30 inches in length, the longest simple leaves for a North American plant.  It is very common in the park.  Ladder trail, Lake Trail, Island Trail.   It makes umbrella magnolia ashamed of itself. 

Utricularia inflata, inflated bladderwort:  This is an aquatic carnivorous plant that grows in Pickett Lake.  Has been very common in this lake unless it was wiped out when lake was drained.  It was listed as rare in Tennessee, but  it is found in abundance on the Coastal Plain states to the south, probably by from duck feet.    It has traps on stems that open and suck in invertebrates.  It may be in flower in June.  It is invasive and really kind of out of place in the Cumberlands, but it is a native plant on the move since reservoirs of various sizes have come into fashion. 

Stenanthium diffusum, Rockhouse featherbells: This is a newly-named lily species, another rockhouse endemic named by Gene Wofford of UTK.  Its flowers are much reduced, but quite an interesting plant.  You would find it at the Ladder Trail rockhouse, for sure – we’ve all seen it there for decades, but thought it was an already-identified species.  Wofford proved it was not.   Old flowers persist, so you can get a sense of their structure. 

Gaylussacia brachycera, box huckleberry: Found low in the understory throughout most of Pickett State Park and Forest.  Lives as a gigantic, ancient clone, if you recall.  Should have fruit, but not ripe.  But even ripe fruits are not sweet, even though they are stunningly plump.

Of course, there will be more nice displays, the Rhododendron maximum fills the woods with blooms in June. Clethra acuminata is a very interesting small tree with beautiful papery bark in the Heath family that is especially prolific at Pickett.