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April's showers bring out local wildflowers
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Purple toadshade is one of many wildflowers now in bloom at Amicalola Falls State Park. Spring Wildflower Fest is this weekend at the park near Dawsonville. - photo by Tom Reed

Get out to see the wildflowers

Amicalola Falls State Park

What: Spring Wildflower Fest
When: 10 a.m. Friday and Sunday
How much: $3 parking; Easter lunch buffet in the park's mountain-view restaurant is $19.95 on Sunday
More info: 706-265-1969

What: Get Outdoors Georgia Wildflower Walk at the Hike Inn
When: Noon April 16
How much: $3 parking
More info: 800-581-8032

Elachee Nature Science Center
What:
First Saturday Hike
When: 10-11:30 a.m. May 2
How much: $5 adults, $3 children ages 2-12, free for members
More info: 770-535-1976

One of the easiest ways to realize spring has sprung? Just look at your feet.

If you're walking along a road, through a park or even up into the mountains, you'll see an array of wildflowers poking out their petals, looking for some sun. And starting in just the last week or so, these little beauties started sprouting in full force and will continue until summer's heat sets in.

Lucky for us, there are several public places to take in these gems.

Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville is one place where you can not only experience the beauty of the waterfalls, but enjoy the flowers on your hike. The park is hosting a wildflower festival this weekend, as well as a few wildflower hikes in the next few weeks.

"The base of the falls hike, down by the creek and up along the waterfall, is our most wonderful wildflower hike at the moment," said Andrea Tucker, naturalist at Amicalola Falls. "It seems like we've seen more wildflowers year-round along that trail; it does tend to start earlier, though."

The park has a 1,000 foot elevation change, she noted, which means there are places for a variety of different species to grow. Flowers now blooming include bloodroot, rue anemone, star chickweed, trout lilies and trilliums.

"Or most asked about plant this time of year is one of the trilliums that's got blotchy leaves. It's a toadshade trillium, and it's got beautiful blotchy leaves and a burgundy flower that sits right on the branching of the leaves," she said. "We should have two or three more species of trillium showing up pretty soon."

During this weekend's Wildflower Fest, she added, there will be several guided hikes "and that will be about our peak as far as wildflowers go. We do have wildflowers throughout late spring and summer but you have to look harder for them."

Wildflower enthusiast Hugh Nourse, who with his wife Carol has written three books on wildflowers and wildflower hikes, said this is the perfect time of year to go out trekking for wildflowers.

Because of Georgia's diverse topography - from swampy lowlands to the Piedmont region to the mountains - there are more wildflowers to see in our state than most.

"Georgia is a really diverse state, and we have more variety of wildflowers in our state than all but about five or six states in the U.S.," Nourse said.

In the next week, he added, look for clumps of wildflowers at granite outcroppings, such as Stone Mountain.

"The granite outcrops like Stone Mountain or Enola Mountain or Arabia Mountain, their best day is tax day, April 15," he said. "We went out to one yesterday and they are about to pop, and there you see the wonderful elf orpine and the sandboards and the ragworts, Southern ragwort, and sunnybells and spiderworts."

Hugh and Carol Nourse's book, "Wildflowers of Georgia," details several walks in the state. But there are good places to see wildflowers right in our backyard, he said.

"Elachee Nature Center," he said. "They have - oh, they've got some wonderful wildflower walks - a wonderful one that goes around the visitors center, and it's very nice."

Peter Gordon, education director at Elachee Nature Science Center, said there are several types of trilliums in bloom now, as well as bloodroot, sanguinaria and wellum.

"All of the ones that are coming out right now are taking advantage of no leaves on the trees," Gordon said. "Other plants we expect out soon or are blooming right now, there's one called perfoliate bellwort, also known as wild oats, a beautiful yellow flower with a stem right through the leaf."

There's also hepatica, with a liver-shaped leaf and a lavender flower.

"There was a period in time when a lot of people thought because of its shape it could be used to treat liver diseases. That's not really true."

The first Saturday hikes at Elachee are self-guided, he said, although anyone is welcome to come by at any time to see the flowers and ask questions. The center also brings in school groups during the week.

No matter where you end up to see some flowers, Nourse recommended taking in the show before the little blooms have passed us by.

"I don't think there's a wildflower that I'm not happy to see," he said.

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