The West Virginia Native Plant Society plans hikes, presentations

The West Virginia Native Plant Society will host several exciting events in Elkins and its members invite everyone to participate. No experience is necessary – participants just need a love of nature and an interest in learning more about native plants.

The March 23 event will be given in the Monongahela National Forest Supervisor’s Office, located at 200 Sycamore St., Elkins.

The festivities will begin with a special presentation, “The Federally Threatened and Endangered Plants of West Virginia.” P.J. Harmon, Rare and Endangered Species/ Natural Heritage Botanist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, will give this presentation beginning at 12:30 p.m.

Following the presentation, hikers will meet outside in the back of the building at 1 p.m.

There will be two fun-filled field hikes, and everyone who attends will be able to go on both trips. The first hike will be led by a dynamic duo from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources – Elizabeth Byers and Jim Vanderhorst. The walk is designed to see snow trilliums. This uncommon trillium is almost always associated with limestone in areas where leaf litter does not accumulate and cover the plants. It begins to bloom as early as mid-March and may be found in bloom surrounded by snow.

“Snow trillium is a harbinger of spring because it is one of the earliest flowers to bloom in West Virginia,” said Cindy Sandeno, WVNPS member. “If you are beginning to get a little cabin fever and want to get outside, this is a perfect trip.”

You have to know where to look, since these little beauties are usually less than 6 inches tall and only bloom for about two weeks. Having the expert eyes of Byers and Vanderhorst will help ensure a productive trip.

The second hike also will include a chance to see another very unique plant, the federally endangered running buffalo clover. This plant is thought to have depended on bison to periodically disturb areas and create habitat, as well as to disperse its seeds. While this plant will not be in flower, group members hope to be able to see the plant beginning to grow. This portion of the trip will be led by Brian Streets, a botanist with the West Virginia Natural Heritage Program.

After viewing running buffalo clover, the group will have a chance to work on field identification of non-native invasive shrubs in winter with U.S. Forest Service ecologist Kent Karriker. Both snow trilliums and running buffalo clover, along with many other native plant species, are threatened by non-native invasive species.

“Non-native species such as autumn olive, bush honeysuckles and Japanese barberry are a significant threat to the forests and natural resource-based economies of West Virginia,” Kent said. “It is important for landowners to learn to identify these species early so that they can remove these plants quickly and minimize their impacts.”

WVNPS members hope lots of people interested in nature will join them for part or all of these activities. Joining these organized hikes is a great way to meet people who are passionate about the outdoors and a way to visit new places. The WVNPS is a nonprofit organization open to anyone interested in learning about West Virginia’s native plants and their habitats.