HENLAWSON — This year, when Mother Nature put on her springtime show at Chief Logan State Park, not many people could come to see it.
Public-gathering restrictions issued as part of West Virginia’s battle with the COVID-19 pandemic caused the park’s annual wildflower walk to be canceled. The event, usually held on the first Saturday in April, ordinarily attracts dozens of nature-lovers.
They missed quite a show. Dozens of wildflower species were in bloom — but, as usual, one species stole the show: bluebells.
Chief Logan’s shaded hollows were carpeted with dense patches of bright-blue blossoms. Lauren Cole, the park’s naturalist, said it’s a showy display that almost always takes place in the last days of March and the early days of April.
“The Virginia bluebell is one of our most abundant, and I would say beautiful, wildflowers,” Cole said. “They’re a larger flower, and they’re easy to spot. There are places in the park where you’ll find patches of bluebells that cover an acre or more.”
She said Chief Logan’s steep-sided, narrow hollows provide perfect habitat for the species.
“Bluebells tend to be populous here because the hills are tight and close together,” she explained. “There are a lot of places where the sun and wind don’t get a chance to dry things out.
“Those wet creek bottoms, tucked back in those dark hollows, are perfect places for bluebells to grow. It’s incredible. You look up these little creek valleys, and you can see the bluebells spread all across the hillsides.”
From a distance, the bluebell blossoms appear light blue. Up close, however, they can vary quite a bit, ranging from light blue to medium blue, purplish-pink, light pink, and even white.
Had this year’s walk been conducted, it would have been the 37th since the event began in 1983. Cole said there are usually two walks — a longer, more difficult one that covers 3 ½ miles, and a short, relatively easy one that starts at the park’s amphitheater and follows a gently sloping creek bottom to several large, showy bluebell patches.
“If you want to come and see more wildflowers than you’ve probably seen in your life, this would be the place to do it,” she added.
At the same time as the bluebells are on full display, Cole said visitors can also find roughly 30 other wildflower species on display.
“You can see yellow corydalis, dwarf larkspur, cutleaf toothwort, Carolina spring beauty, Virginia spring beauty, Dutchman’s breeches, squirrel corn, rue anemone, pepper-and-salt, trilliums, trout lilies, Jack-in-the-pulpit, blue cohosh, buttercups, four or five species of violets — I could go on,” she said, rattling the names off from memory.
Chief Logan is also known for another flower species, the rare Guyandotte beauty, but Cole said that species doesn’t appear until later.
“People do come looking for that one, but I think the bluebells are our No. 1 wildflower attraction because they put on such an incredible show,” she added. “They’re everywhere, and they’re really spectacular.
“I think it’s pretty neat that you don’t have to travel to some far-flung location to see what I think is an incredible display of nature. It’s here, and for West Virginians, it’s right in their backyard.”