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Virginia Bluebells, Prince William’s Official Flower, Reach Peak Bloom

By Uriah Kiser April 15, 2014 12:39 pm

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NOKESVILLE, Va. – One of the most unique wildflowers to bloom each year in our area will peak today.

The Virginia Bluebell, or Mertensia virginica, now blankets the banks of the Cedar Run creek and its floodplain in Nokesville. The flower also has other names like Virginia cowslip, lungwort oysterleaf, and Roanoke bells, but in Prince William County – where the Bluebell is the official flower – the Virginia Bluebell is a sure sign of spring.

“In two weeks you want even know they’re there. There ephemeral all the petals will fall off and they’ll be gone,” said Prince William Conservation Alliance Director Kim Hosen.

Though they’re short lived, the flowers are enough to draw hundreds to the annual Virginia Bluebell Festival at Merrimac Farm Wildlife Management Area. At the festival Sunday, tours guides took visitors through the flood plain to view the flowers which were nearly in full bloom, unlike last year’s festival where a slow spring pushed back the bloom dates until late April.

There were also opportunities to learn about birds, bugs, habitats, and many other things outdoor enthusiasts love.

The Bluebell is a sensitive plant that loves the soils of the floodplain. Never wanting to share, Bluebells need the full rays of the sun and always bloom before green leaves appear on trees, said Hosen.

They’re abundant in Nokesville, growing at Merrimac Farm and on many private properties in the area. But you would be hard pressed to find them anywhere in eastern Prince William County or along the Potomac River.

“In the eastern end, when they build they reduce the flood plain. Many will build a wall to keep the water in and so there just no more flood plain,” said Hosen, who also serves on the county’s Planning Commission.

The “official” county flowers generally are at peak bloom every year between April 13 -15. And, there’s a reason why they chose the Bluebell to be the county’s flower.

“They make everybody smile,” said Hosen.

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