What a great way to enjoy a delightful, breezy spring Sunday afternoon on the Cumberland Plateau of southeast Tennessee! This post is a summary of the highlights of the recent Jasper Highlands Nature Walk…
We met at Pat’s Summitt for introductory remarks before taking a hike down Sweetgum Trail. Accompanied by owner-developer John Thornton, we slowly made our way from the trailhead adjacent to Jasper Highlands Boulevard to the bluff overlooking the Tennessee River Valley. We stopped often along the trail to discuss identification of various floral species in the forest. All attendees were presented with an Identification Field Guide specific to flora and fauna species in our area. Among the topics of discussion:
- Spring Beauty – a dainty , common wildflower that often appears in clusters along the roadsides, forests and fields in this area. Among the first to bloom in spring
- Pinxter Flower – a woody shrub in the Azalea family – the brilliant blooms are common in spring
- How to distinguish the many species of Oaks that abound in our forests – not an easy task even for an experienced naturalist! In our area, Chestnut Oak, Red Oak, White Oak are the most common
- The three common species of hickories in the forests of Jasper Highlands – the leaves all turn brilliant yellow in autumn
- Identification of the ‘gum’ trees – Sourgum, Blackgum, and Sweetgum, the latter for which the trail is named
- Identification of two of the two common species of pines – The Virginia Pine and the Yellow Pine (Shortleaf Pine)
Our group took a break at the bluff to enjoy the incredible Tennessee scenery. On the return walk, we spotted a treasure! A male Scarlet Tanager, whose habitat is the canopy of mature deciduous forest, made itself known by alighting in a tree along the trail. The striking red coloration and jet-black wings are unmistakeable. In our part of Tennessee, the only other ‘red’ bird is the Northern Cardinal.
After the Nature Walk, our group shared snacks and refreshments atop Pat’s Summitt while enjoying the beautiful long range views of the Tennessee River Valley. Be sure to join us next time on the trails at Jasper Highlands!
Let us know if you would like to plan a visit.
Additional Photos from the Weekend
More soon from the Fence Post…
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