Late summer is a feast of beautiful Wildflowers and Insects of Hot Springs National Park.
The Wildflowers at the base of North Mountain are spectacular and new varieties appear every few days. Today’s discovery was Pennsylvania Smartweed, I wish I had taken better photographs. It was not until I started editing at home that I realize what looked like pink wheat were tiny pink hairy blossoms in an elongated cluster. Beautiful yet to be identified tiny pale pink flower clusters atop a tall thin stem and elongated clusters with tiny purplish lavender flowers rising from large leaf plants. Another surprise, I did not know Hot Springs National Park had Wild Poinsettias. As few paces up the Floral Trail onto North Mountain reveals lovely Yellow False Foxglove.
The Goat Rock Trail was a Lizard nursery with babies running along the sides of the trails and occasionally allowing us to see them. They are tiny Prairie Lizards only about 3 inches long including their tails and are nearly invisible as they scramble across the dried leaves. One peeks at me from the side of a tree with it’s tail arched, a gesture I had not witnessed until today. Wildflowers are sparse along the Goat Rock Trail and I am surprised to see False Garlic and Oxalis, usually blooms associated with Spring. A gorgeous Red Spotted Purple Butterfly is perched on a leaf in the bright morning sun. It is the one of the first times I could see the purple hue leading into the darkness of it’s wings.
On the hike down North Mountain I spotted my first Hairy Small-Leaf Tick-Trefoil. They are lovely tiny orchid shaped deep purplish pink blooms with bright green eye details. The contrasting colors are spectacular. Hoary Mountain Mint Flower clusters were alive with insect activity including Wasps and Butterflies. I did not realize there were so many different types of Wasps in the Park. I saw an Orange Antennae Black Spider Wasp, a Great Black Wasp and 2 unidentified species with yellow on black and white on black.
Further down the mountain a young Prairie Racerunner Lizard flashes it’s stripes. The markings are striking going from bright yellow on brown stripe to bluish green hindquarters and tail. When a predator grabs Prairie Racerunner’s tail it falls off and they grow a new one.
Surprises abound no matter how many times I trail the same trails…
Have a Glorious Day on the Trails!
It is the end of summer and the Forest is a festival of color as the green begins to fade and Wildflowers are decorated with Butterflies. As we enter the park to hike the bushes and grass along the trail are covered in grey Moths? Butterflies? I am no expert. You could not move without them fluttering up against you, their delicate wings brush against my cheeks and hair. Lovely striped caterpillars are moving among the flurry of winged creatures in the tall grass. Following their flight path I look down and notice beautiful bell shaped blue flowers. Glowing in the early light are Heavenly Blue Morning Glory. These are the first I have seen in the park.
The hike up North Mountain in the rising sun and cool breeze is wonderful. The sky is a glorious blue and looking up into the canopy is the best art gallery in the world as the Trees dance in the wind. Halfway up the Mountain I see high above us the first autumn Leaves glowing red and yellow among the green. It is a beautiful discovery. The hike along the north side of the Upper Dogwood Trail is peaceful, powerful therapy for the mind, spirit and body. Hiking here is always a rejuvenating experience.
Atop the North Mountain Overlook we stand in awe at the end of the Zig Zags looking toward the Ouachita Mountains. My beloved husband lends himself to the landscape as a statue pointing northward. We head down the North Mountain Loop and discover the edges of the road are covered in Wildflowers and Butterflies. A Lovely golden greenish yellow Orange Sulphur (Butterfly) is camouflaged among the Yellow False Foxgloves. Balanced atop Woodland Sunflowers and Leaves are bronze, white and blue Common Checkered Skippers (Butterflies). Commanding attention among the Creeping Bushclover and other wildflowers is a large spectacular Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly.
Our hike back down the mountain is highlighted by numerous Hackberry Emperors fanning gracefully on the side of nearly every tree we pass. One moment they are visible wings fully spread, the next nearly invisible with wings closed. At the base of the Mountain in a dry creek bed is a stunning Tawny Emperor Butterfly, the first I have seen in the park. Another first, a vibrant gold Delaware Skipper (Butterfly) sits delicately poised on a Heavenly Blues Morning Glory. As we near the end of the trail I spot a colorful striped caterpillar as it dangles upside down snacking on the stamen of a tiny Asiatic Dayflower. Nature has treated us to a glorious display of her always changing beauty.
It is always a good day to go hiking!
Love to All,