Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pink Surprise

Last Saturday morning (April 21), Kali and I took a 1.5-hour walk along "my" creek, but several miles downstream of "my" natural area.  This section of the creek flows through public parkland, and is paralleled by a well-used and popular bike path.

Since the creek is flowing through the Piedmont, the topography is rolling.  As Kali and I "summitted" the highest hill along the bike path (about 50 feet above the creek), a knoll which provides my favorite viewpoint in the entire 21-mile stream valley, we stopped to enjoy the vista and I was astonished to see native azaleas blooming on the very steep hillside below us.  This azalea is also known as pinxter-flower, pinxter-bloom, and election pink (Rhododendron periclymenoides).  The occurrence of the plant, which should be a typical and significant component of the woodland flora, surprised me because most showy plants in the park fall victim to human abuse if they haven't been eaten first by the very abundant deer.  I suspect that these plants have persisted only because the hillside is so steep--although there were obvious paths through the stand.

How about that name?  Azaleas belong to the genus Rhododendron, and periclymenoides means honeysuckle-like.  But pinxter-bloom? Because it’s pink?  According to the Sierra Club Potomac Hiker's Handbook:
The term is of Dutch origin, a shortened form of Pinxter blomachee, which translates roughly as 'blossoming on the Pentecost.' The Dutch settlers of the Hudson River valley noted that the flower reached full bloom near the date of this important Christian festival.
We descended the other side of the knoll and continued our walk, crossing to the opposite side of the creek on a very busy road bridge high above the stream.  We decided to return on the opposite (non-bike path) side of the creek.  While there's no paved path, there is still a well-used footpath along the creek.  Nevertheless, we startled a female Canada goose who was sitting on her nest full of eggs less than two feet off the trail and three feet above the water.
A view upstream from the bridge


John Gray said...

makes you really feel that summer is on its way eh?

packrat said...

That's a gorgeous flower, Scott.

Scott said...

Truth be told, John, summer's definitely my least favorite season. I have a hard time tolerating the heat. So, while the pinxter-bloom is beautiful, if it's a signal that summer's about to begin, it's not a positive omen in my book.

Scott said...

Packrat, I agree that the flower is exquisite. It's also mildly (and pleasantly) fragrant. As I was searching the Internet looking for the origin of the pinxter-bloom name, I came across many plant nursery websites, and I noticed that several of the websites expressed a "most beautiful of the native azalea flowers" sentiments.