Outings, Plants

Big Creek Wildflower Walk

Wildflower photos  by Allen Miller


Our first field trip of the year drew seventeen BRNN members to view wildflowers on a mild, damp morning at Big Creek on the eastern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We split into two groups, one taking the wide Big Creek trail that runs straight along the north side of the valley, the other crossing the creek to take the Baxter Creek trail that runs south towards Mt. Sterling.  We found a total of 55 flowering plants, shrubs and trees without stepping off the trails.  The Yellow Trillium was everywhere, with Purple Phacelia, Long-spurred  Violet, and Foam Flower making fine shows.  Members new to the area were delighted to discover Showy Orchis, Wild Ginger, and Yellow Mandarin, and more experienced wildflower enthusiasts got a chance to distinguish Golden Alexanders from Smooth Meadow Parsnip.  Scott Dean would have been proud of us!     Read more

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Citizen Science, Outings

Citizen Scientists Needed

The Hemlock Restoration Initiative invites you to participate in a fun and interesting volunteer workday with our partner the Forest Restoration Alliance (FRA). The FRA takes a long term approach to hemlock restoration by working on selection and breeding for pest resistance in hemlocks and other native conifers.  As you might imagine this work takes many years to accomplish, so every volunteer day helps sustain this long-term effort.

We have two volunteer days coming up on Friday, October 20 and Thursday, November 16, where we will be helping the Forest Restoration Alliance at their research facility near Waynesville.  The work days may involve tree care in the greenhouse (such as fertilizing), cleaning up in and around their green houses, and contributing to the completion of their newly-restored indoor facility.

And there are no pesticides involved!  This is a great opportunity to get involved in hemlock conservation without handling insecticides and to learn more about the scientific process of restoring our threatened tree species across the landscape.

Days: Friday, Oct. 20 and Thursday, Nov. 16. You are welcome to volunteer one or both days.
Place: Volunteers will meet at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville, NC.  The specific meeting place at the Research Station will be provided when you RSVP
Time: The workday will start at 10 am and lasts until 3 or 4 pm, but folks can head out earlier, as needed.  Please let me know if you plan to leave early so we can plan the work day accordingly.
What to bring: Please wear clothes comfortable for gardening and the outdoors and closed toed shoes, and bring water and a lunch.

If you plan to attend, please RSVP by Oct. 13 for the Oct. 20 work day and by Nov. 10 for the Nov. 16 work day with a contact number for the morning of the work day.  If you are bringing other volunteers beside yourself, also please include the number of people in your group.

You can learn more about the FRA and their breeding program at threatenedforests.com

Please email Thom with questions

Thom Green
AmeriCorps Stewardship and Volunteer Engagement Associate
Hemlock Restoration Initiative
Office: 828-252-4783
Email: volunteer@savehemlocksnc.org
Website: savehemlocksnc.org





VOLUNTEER NEEDS (sign up at www.ncarboretum.volunteerhub.com)

*Info Desk Volunteers Daily shifts from 9:00 a.m.- 1:00 p.m. or 1:00- 5:00 p.m. Volunteers must enjoy interacting with people and share information about the Arboretum’s trails, gardens and programs.

*Garden Guides Weekly garden walks on Fridays at 10:00 a.m. and group tours
scheduled between 9:00 and 4:00 p.m. daily. Volunteers lead tours highlighting the Arboretum’s gardens, landscape design, art and local history.

*Rocky Cove Railroad Operators Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Toot your own horn as a g-scale model train operator.

*Trail Guides Weekly naturalist hikes on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. Share your knowledge of natural and local history and the beauty of the Arboretum’s trails with guests.

*Winged Wonders Docents Monday – Thursday from 10:30 a.m. -2:30 p.m. and Friday- Sunday from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. or 12- 4 p.m. until October 29. Educate guests about local butterflies and the importance of insects! Training provided on July 17.

*The Great Sunflower Project Citizen Scientists Flexible weekly schedule. Monitor sunflowers for pollinators and report data to scientists online to help valuable research on the decline of honeybees and native pollinators.

*Phenology Citizen Scientists Flexible weekly schedule. Monitor trees on phenology trail for key seasonal changes from year to year and report data for climate change research.

*Monarch Watch Citizen Scientists Flexible weekly schedule. Monitor milkweed for Monarch butterfly eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises and report data to scientists online. Take part in this important research on a species of concern!

*Carolina Herps Citizen Scientists Flexible weekly schedule for a dynamic duo. Provide scientists with data on the distribution of reptiles and amphibians.

Upcoming Training Opportunities
Sign up for volunteer trainings and more at www.ncarboretum.volunteerhub.com

Every Friday at 10 a.m.: Share your love of the Arboretum’s gardens with visitors. Sign up today to be a Garden Guide Shadow and learn how to lead tours!

Every Tuesday and Saturday at 1 p.m.: Learn to be a Trail Guide and lead tours highlighting our local flora and fauna. Sign up to be a Trail Guide Shadow!

Every Saturday and Sunday from 12-4: Learn to toot your own horn as g-scale model train operator. Sign up to be a Rocky Cove Railroad Shadow.

Contact Cat to schedule your training to become an information desk volunteer! Training is available every day of the week from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. or 1-5 p.m.

A step-by-step VolunteerHub tutorial guide has been placed at the volunteer computer stations, located at the Greenhouse, Operations Center and both information desks!

Contact the Volunteer & Guest Services Coordinator, Cat Dillard, at 828-665-2492, extension 219 or email cdillard@ncarboretum.org

Visit www.ncarboretum.volunteerhub.com. New volunteers will need to create an account!

Photo by Scott Reed

Read more

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Elk in the wild

Cataloochee Elk

By BRNN Treasurer Barbara Harrison

As you hike in the relatively remote Cataloochee valley in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park on a cool, crisp afternoon, you can hear the eerie sound of the bugling of the male elk. It is fall in the valley, and breeding season for the elks, known as the “rut”, is well under way. The Blue Ridge Naturalist Network spent a wonderful afternoon in the Cataloochee Valley in September learning about the re-introduction of these elk into the valley and their biology, with a wonderful opportunity to watch them.

Male elk, called bulls, make bugling calls to challenge other bulls and to attract female cows. One bull can have a harem of 8-10 cows. The cows will choose their mate and then join his harem based on the size of his antlers and on the tone and pitch of his bugle. Large bulls will use their antlers to intimidate and spar with other males and to dominate their harem. Each cow will give birth to only one calf in the spring after the rut in the previous fall.

In spring, the bulls lose their antlers. These large antlers are rich in calcium and phosphate and are quickly eaten by rodents and other animals. Their antlers grow back during the spring-summer months and will be full grown again by August. Elk are herbivores. They eat grasses, flowers, buds and leaves from shrubs and trees. They have excellent eye sight to protect them from predators.

Many years ago, elk roamed freely throughout the southern Appalachian Mountains, but by 1750 the elk were eliminated by over hunting and loss of habitat. In 2001, the effort began to reintroduce elk to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Initially, 25 elk were relocated from the Land Between the Lakes area along the Tennessee-Kentucky border. In 2002, 27 elk were relocated to the valley from Alberta, Canada. All 52 of these elk were released out into the Cataloochee valley. All of them wear collars for tracking and numbered ear tags for identification. Yellow ear tags are on the elk from the Land of the Lakes area. White ear tags are from the Canadian elk. and orange ear tags are on elk that have been born in the valley. If you see an elk with a lettered ear tag, it has been identified as a dangerous animal. Probably, this elk has been fed by humans and has lost its fear of humans and approaches them for food. Elk are large animals and cows with calves can be defensive. Bulls can also be defensive if humans approach their territory.

The Cataloochee valley is a wonderful place to observe these magnificent creatures. Keep your distance, however, at least 50 yards. Do not enter the fields where the elk are. Do not feed them. Let them live as they are meant to live and feel privileged to be able to see them in their natural habitat. They are truly a magnificent sight to see.

Directions:  To get to the valley from interstate I-40, exit at North Carolina exit #20 and travel 0.2 miles on route 276. Turn right onto Cove Creek Road and follow the signs 11 miles into the Cataloochee Valley. To get there from Oconaluftee or Cherokee, take the Blue Ridge Parkway to Highway 19. Follow 19 (toward Asheville) through Maggie Valley. Turn left onto Highway 276 N. Just before the entrance ramp to I-40 (but past gas station), turn left and follow the signs 11 more miles to Cataloochee. Using the Cove Creek Road route, motorists will be traveling on a gravel road for approximately 15 minutes.

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