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Tater Hill Hikes in 2018

Sponsored by the Blue Ridge chapter

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Those of you who attended the Tater Hill hike at the 2017 Spring Outing in Boone might remember it as a rather wet and muddy romp through the woods along flooded trails. We had much better luck with the elements in 2018 when the Blue Ridge Chapter went hiking there. Great weather, great views, great company, and of course a great display of unique mountain flora!

Tater Hill group in May 2018

The May spring hike was led by Dr. Matt Estep, biology professor at Appalachian State University and current volunteer Stewart of the Tater Hill Preserve for the NC Plant Conservation Program. We met with Matt at the big oak tree at Tater Hill Bog to shuttle up the mountain to make the hike more accessible to those unable to walk long distances uphill. On the top, we found ourselves surrounded by spring bloomers while following the old gravel road through stunted high-elevation forest and climbing across the grassy bald, where we got to enjoy great views of the surrounding mountains.

Fringed Phacelia on Tater Hill

Late freezes meant spring bloomers were getting started a little late in the mountains, which worked out perfectly for the timing of our hike. The Southern Appalachian endemic Fringed Phacelia (Phacelia fimbriata) was abundant, along with red trillium, trout lilies, wood anemone and other spring ephemerals as the buds were swelling on the trees just getting ready to leaf out.

Tater Hill bald in May

The views from the bald on top of Tater Hill are stunning in any season. Spring was just arriving on the mountain tops in May.

Tater Hill bald in July

We were fortunate to enjoy a second hike on Tater Hill in the middle of the summer season in July. And what a difference a couple of months can make for the types of plants you see! Where we were walking through ankle to knee-high vegetation in spring, the summer bloomers were towering chest-high or taller in places.

Searching for Bent Avens

The summer hike was led by Marietta Shattelroe, one of Dr. Estep's graduate students, as part of her obligations as a recipient of a 2018 Shinn Grant from the NC Native Plant Society for her research on the endangered Bent Avens (Geum geniculatum). Bent Avens is listed as threatened in North Carolina and endangered in Tennessee. There is almost no data available of the life history, reproductive biology and genetics of this rare species, something Marietta hopes to contribute as she is collecting leaf samples for DNA extraction and population genetics studies.

Plant-pollinator interaction on Tater Hill

On top of visiting Marietta's research site and learning the differences between Bent Avens and the much more common White Avens (Geum canadense) growing in the same area, we also got to see other rare species and beautiful displays of summer wildflowers and their pollinators.

Tater Hill views

The plan was to watch the sunset on our evening hike in July but the clouds moving in blocked the view of the sun. The views from the top are always stunning in any weather though.

Tater Hill descent

If you ever have a chance to join a hike on Tater Hill, it's well worth the experience! Access to these preserves is by permit only to protect the endangered and threatened plant species that grow in these areas. Therefore, it is always a special treat to go along on one of these guided hikes.

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