Bull Run Bluebells

9 04 2009

For many years I’ve been meaning to go see the Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) en masse at Bull Run Regional Park in Manassas about this time of the year. I can now cross that excursion off my list! If you live in Northern Virginia (or thereabouts), there’s an annual Bull Run Bluebell Walk at 2:00 p.m. this Sunday, April 12.

As I mentioned in my earlier posting here, I wanted to avoid the crowds and certainly did. We encountered less than a dozen hikers and photographers on our hike down the Bluebell Trail.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of plants in bloom, though, and a bit hard to work around the plethora of trees, trunks, and fallen branches to get that stellar shot. Many of the landscape-with-Bluebell shots I got were more “record” shots than stellar. Michael found a plastic bag in the car (the ground was still quite damp), and we both hunkered down on the ground to get up close and personal with a few perfect specimens. Our positioning also allowed us to discover other plants in bloom: Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum) and Cutleaf Toothwarts (Dentaria laciniata, a member of the Mustard family, Brassicaceae). From a distance, Cutleaf Toothworts, whose beauty belies their nefarious-sounding name, look very similar to the ‘Spring Beauty’ wildflowers.

We also took along the Interfit 5 in 1 collapsible reflector (translucent portion only) to block the mid-day sun and get more saturated color. I’ve used the reflector in the studio and for outdoor portraits, but since I usually follow the rule of “shoot flowers in early a.m. or late p.m.,” I’ve never used it for this purpose. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before—I can now shoot flowers even in the worst light of day for flower photography—that mid-day sun!

While researching where best to photograph fields of Bluebells, I stumbled upon Chris Kayler’s posting about them here. Take a look at his Nature Photography Gallery. Chris, a student at Northern Virginia Community College, specializes in nature and wildlife photography, and lives in Manassas. Spectacular work, Chris!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Virginia Bluebells

6 04 2009

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are also known as Virginia Cowslip, Lungwort Oysterleaf (which, as Dave Barry might say, would make a very good name for a rock bandladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Lungwort Oysterleaf!), Roanoke Bells and Languid Ladies (again, a very good name for a rock band!).

Blooming in spring from March to May, these herbaceous woodland wildflowers can be found in upland forests, floodplain forests, wetlands and bluffs. They will grow in sun but prefer slight to full shade, and are ideal plants for rock gardens. Each inch-long blossom consists of five petals that form a tubular shape. The buds begin with a pinkish hue that changes to a violet blue color as they age. Although they can be pollinated by bumblebees, butterflies are the most common pollinators.

I’ve read that Bluebells bloom in profusion at Bull Run Regional Park in Manassas about this time of the year, so guess where I’m heading soon! If you’re in this area, there’s an annual Bull Run Bluebell Walk at 2:00 p.m. this Sunday, April 12. I want to avoid the crowd, so I’ll try to break away a bit from design work later this week.

Read Joel Achenbach’s recent homage to Bluebells in a Washington Post article published last month here. I especially liked: You can buy a bluebell at a garden center, but that’s like seeing a fox in the zoo. Nothing makes me weep like the sight of a wildflower in captivity.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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