Wildflowers along Pearson Falls Road, Polk County, North Carolina

First, let me mention that there seems to be much confusion about the name of the site. It is either Pearson Falls or Pearson’s Falls. The owner of the site, the Garden Club of Tryon, North Carolina, lists it as Pearson’s Falls on their website, but the road leading to it is called Pearson Falls Road. Go figure… It is in Polk County, just north of Tryon, North Carolina.

In any case, it is the site of a 90-foot (27.5-meter) waterfall and a wildlife and bird sanctuary. However, the draw for me is the large variety of spring wildflowers at the location. I had recently seen some interesting shots of Uvularia grandiflora or Large-flowered Bellwort that my flickr friend, Keith Bradley had recently taken at the site, and I wanted to see them for myself.

So, I drove up the road to the Pearson’s Falls guard house where admission to the site is collected. The guard told me that it would be $5 for admission, and then he asked me what I expected to see. I told him that my reason for visiting was to photograph the Large-flowered Bellwort. He pointed to the other side of the entrance road where a group of green plants with withered yellow flowers sat and said, “They’re all bloomed out right now.” I frowned and asked if there were any farther up into the site, and he said, “Probabaly not, but I heard somebody say that they saw them just down the road the other day…”. So, I took back my admission fee, did a U-turn, and proceeded out of the entrance and  farther up Pearson Falls Road.

Large-flowered Bellwort

It is a muddy, one-lane gravel road, and within a very short distance, I saw a large “ROAD CLOSED” sign, but it was not blocking the road. I got out out of the truck and saw that a road crew had been working on a small bridge. It looked safe to me, and since it was Saturday, no officials were around to ask questions. So, I got back into my truck and proceeded forward.

After crossing the bridge, I began to see loads of wildflowers on the hillside slope to the left. I saw several Trillium species: Trillium cuneatum, Trillium grandiflorum, and Trillium simile. Only the Trillium simile were in decent shape, since the others were past peak bloom. There were many Large-flowered Bellwort plants, but the flowers were all withered. Another Bummer! However, I kept driving and gaining altitude in the process. In a little bit, I began to notice that the Trillium grandiflorum were looking fresher, and so were the Large-flowered Bellwort. Good news!

I got out of the truck and took a closer look at the plants along the edge of the road. Finally, I found what I had come to photograph:

On the other side of the gravel road, was another Bellwort species, Uvularia sessilifolia or Sessil Bellwort. This is my favorite Bellwort species. I really like the creamy yellow color of the flowers and the way that they dangle loosely from the stem. There is another Uvularia species that looks very much like this one, but I’m quite certain that I’ve identified it properly without digging it up:

In the same area where I was parked, I saw several very nice groups of Trillium simile, Gleeson’s Trillium. Although I had recently photographed it at Oconee Station State Historic Site, I decided that I wanted to shoot these groups, as well:

Finally, I packed up my gear and was wandering down the road to see what else I could find. I just happened to look up the hillside into a group of Trillium grandiflorum, many of which were withered and sad looking. What I saw really got my heart beating fast. I had to draw a mark on the gravel road with my foot, so I could find the place when I came back with my camera.

I ran back to the truck, got my gear, and hurried back to the mark in the road. This is the double-flowered Trillium grandiflorum that I saw:

double-flowered Trillium grandiflorum

I have seen images of double-flowered Trillium on the internet, but I had never seen one up close and personal. What great luck to spot this one in the middle of a large group of Trillium. Could I have asked for a better trip? Maybe, but I was happy to find the Large-flowered Bellwort in bloom and really excited to find the double-flowered Trillium grandiflorum in the wild…

— Jim

One comment

  • Max Smith

    Really enjoy reading about your expeditions and seeing your photos of spring flowers. Can’t wait to see some spring ephermals here in another month.

    April 23, 2013

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