Hike difficulty ratings
1– Easy, light walking, in and out of van
2 – Moderate, trail walking, a mile or so
3 – Moderately strenuous, away from bus, four miles or so
4 – Strenuous, uneven trails away from bus, steep terrain, 4+ miles
5 – Very strenuous, rough terrain, away from the bus
Western North Carolina is an excellent place for people who enjoy bird watching! Over 200 birds make their home here year-round, and another 80 species migrate through the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Join us for a fun walk, learning to identify birds by sight and sound. Location to be determined. Tips and tricks for bird identification will be covered as well as planting ideas for native plants to attract them. Handouts will be provided. We recommend you wear good walking shoes and bring a bird identification guide, binoculars and a water bottle for the best experience. Limit = 15 Hike difficulty rating = moderate.
The Blue Ridge Parkway provides fairly easy access to a number of unique high elevation habitats and many rare and endemic plants. Just being up there is a treat – cool, moist air, blue sky (we hope) and communities of plants found nowhere else. We will visit three classic sites: (1) the southernmost (and very tiny) Cranberry Bog at Black Balsam. It is a short hike on a flat dirt road with seeps, springs, and lots of plants. We should see 4 small orchids and numerous shrubs and wildflowers. (2) Three rare or endemic shrubs along the BRP: Pink-shell azalea, Mountain fetterbush, Buckley’s St. Johns-wort. (3) Seeps at Wolf Mountain overlook. Remarkable vertical cliffs drip water and create mossy-boggy sites for sundews, grass-of-parnassus, orchids, gentians, St. John’s-worts, goldendrods, and much more. Easy.
The highly dissected Balsam Mountains support valleys with Rich Cove Forest. Although the big trees have been cut, a few areas are recovering second growth and still support a diverse flora. Within three miles of the Ramsey Center is Pittillo Family Preserve, a Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust. Available to public access, Nodding Trillium Garden has been enhanced with native basiofilic plants. A trail in the lower edge provides access to rich cove forest with the half-dozen characteristic canopy trees, shrubby spice bush, hydrangea, and herbs such as hepatica, horsemint, blue and black cohoshes, jack-in-the-pulpit, and several ferns including wood, maidenhair, lowland bladder, Christmas, and others. The Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust and WCU student volunteers have been constructing a looped foot trail up Henson Ridge. If participants wish to climb the more difficult section, we can do this before visiting Pinnacle Park, the former watershed from which Sylva obtained its drinking water.. Limit = 15. Hike difficulty rating = 2, moderate (steeper for 0.2 mile up Henson Ridge).
The aromatic molecules of native plants such as Monarda or Pinus serve a variety of functions within the plants themselves but also provide incredible extracts in the form of essential oils and hydrosols that can be used in perfumery, cosmetics, and medicine. Join clinical herbalist Erika Galentin for this hands-on workshop which will take you on the alchemical journey from harvest to bottle. Using a traditional copper alembic still, Erika will walk participants through the loading of the still with plant material all the way through to bottling the final aromatic essence. Participants will even get to take a sample home! Erika will also cover an introduction to aromatic medicine and how she uses essential oils and hydrosols from plants in clinical practice. We will also be smelling a variety of aromas distilled from native plants as we explore their concentrated aromatic impact.
Year-round green appeal is just one of the advantages of gardening with mosses. Sporadic sporophytic displays of crimson, bronze and gold add special delights throughout the year. Besides beauty, bryophytes (mosses) offer eco-friendly alternatives to issues of erosion control, mitigation of storm water run-off, elimination of groundwater contamination, and sustainable approaches to landscaping. The “original” native plants, mosses date back 450 million years. Nationally-recognized moss gardening expert and author of The Magical World of Moss Gardening,Annie Martin (aka Mossin’ Annie), leads participants on an informative and entertaining exploration of how shade and sun moss species can be featured as intentional horticultural choices in your native plant garden. A display of live mosses provides the opportunity to take a closer look at these fascinating miniature plants.
Native bees are the pollinator powerhouses of the garden. Adding nesting habitat is one way to help these bees and to ensure they stay around your garden. In this workshop, we will learn about leaf-cutter bees, mason bees and other native bee species. We will explore their biology, discover their role in the garden, and learn how to enhance their habitat. Finally, we will construct bee hotels that attendees can add to their own garden landscapes. All materials will be provided and the workshop is limited to 20 people. Everyone will leave this workshop with a newfound love of native bees and the knowledge to enjoy them.
We will have a short presentation about the pre-construction conditions, construction, and habitat improvements along Cullowhee Creek and then take a walk on the stream restoration project that dissects the WNC campus. The project was started during the summer of 2005 and construction was completed during the summer of 2006. We will discuss the structures and construction methods, and explore how vegetation plays a role in stream restoration. Limit = 20. Hike difficulty rating = 1, easy.
This workshop is for anyone who wants to learn the basics of plant identification in the field and for those who want a plant ID refresher. Starting outdoors, we will observe native plants on campus and discuss vegetative and reproductive characters and their interpretation. Participants will practice IDing plants with the free mobile app iNaturalist and Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide (copies provided). We will then bring plants indoors to practice identification using dichotomous keys in Flora of the Carolinas, with the help of dissecting microscopes. We will end with a brief visit to the WCU Herbarium. Bring your smartphone (load iNaturalist ahead of time and create a user account), a hand lens, and your favorite botanical field guide for the region if you wish to practice with your own guide. Bring a portable folding stool for IDing outdoors if you are uncomfortable sitting on the ground. Meet at the Field House parking lot. Easy walking.
Join Gary Kauffman, National Forest in North Carolina Botanist, and Nancy Adamson, Xerces Society Ecologist, for a hands-on native grasses workshop highlighting natural communities that inspire ecological landscaping. We’ll see where grass communities are more common and why, learn to use a key based on grass families and tribes, look at samples of common native grasses, touch on native grassland establishment and long term maintenance, and help identify samples you share. Please bring a hand lens, keys you like to use, and the grass section of Weakley’s flora (contact Nancy@xerces.org or GKauffman@fs.fed.us for a resource list). Gary and Nancy will also be co-leading an all-day tour to a sampling of communities with various grasses and wildflowers (see Wednesday field trips).
Join horticulture professional Emily Driskill to learn about propagation methods for native woody plant species. We will cover both seed and vegetative methods, and how to decide which approach to take. The seed discussion will cover sustainable collecting practices, protocols for conserving genetic biodiversity, cleaning, stratification, and sowing. Vegetative methods will cover stem cuttings, layering, root cuttings, and division. There will be demonstrations of most vegetative methods, and everyone will have a chance to make a stem cutting to take home. We will discuss ways to adapt methods to various production scales. You will leave with several stem cuttings, a list of supplies needed to start your own project, and a trusty compilation of references. All materials will be provided.
Do you LOVE the forest? Come and explore the meditative practice of forest bathing. Also known as shinrin yoku, forest bathing is the simple practice of mindfully taking in the forest atmosphere through the senses. Unlike a hike or field trip, forest bathing invites you to slow down and sense a relationship with the natural world, which can greatly improve health and well-being. Spending qualitative time in the forest, specifically, has been associated with its own unique abundance of beneficial results. After learning more about the origins and known benefits of the practice, you will be guided through various sensory and interactive exercises that will help you reap the healing gifts of nature. We will venture onto nearby campus grounds to relax, saunter, and practice. Be it collectively or individually, you will be free to immerse yourself in the forest atmosphere and find your own style of forest bathing. Possible side effects are better health, happiness and a sense of calm. Limit = 12.
Charles Darwin may be best known for the landmark 1859 book On the Origin of Species, but his writing didn't stop there. Of the ten books he published following the Origin more than half are botanical in nature. In this talk I explore Darwin's botanical adventures, and show how plants were his go-to group for myriad ingenious experiments. From pollination ecology, dispersal, and biodiversity studies to the "behavior" and physiology of carnivorous and climbing plants, Darwin used plants to bolster and extend his evolutionary insights, and in the process made fundamental contributions to botany.
The Chatham Mills Pollinator Paradise Demonstration Garden was created 11 years ago and attracts hundreds of visitors from around the southern region to Chatham County, NC each year. The garden features over 215 species of woody and herbaceous perennials, 85% of them native to North Carolina. The impact of the demonstration garden has far exceeded expectations, resulting in pollinator tourism as out-of-town visitors spend money in the community supporting local businesses. Web-based resources and social media have played a vital role in the garden’s success and serve to enhance interest and engagement. Garden creator Debbie Roos will share the history of the garden, discuss challenges and successes, and offer tips for creating and maintaining an impactful demonstration garden.