Arkansas is springing to life. The White Trout-lily is in full bloom in the woods. Spring ephemerals such as Pale Corydalis, Spring Beauty, Toothwort, Bloodroot, and Violets are coloring the forest floor. The return of Arkansas’s natural spring beauty is a relief and a reminder that the pandemic of 2020 didn’t upend everything in our world.
A brief walk through your neighborhood may be enough of an antidote to COVID-19 claustrophobia. If you have the means to travel beyond your community for some outdoor therapy, then Grady Spann, director of the Arkansas State Parks, suggests the Jonquils at Washington Historic State Park as well as a tour of the town of Washington. Grady says Dogwoods and Redbuds are blooming along the Ozark trail, and the wildflower and butterfly garden at Devil’s Den State Park is a showcase of native wildflowers.
When it comes to spring flowers – or any other flower or plant – Theo Witsell is a fount of knowledge. Theo is Arkansas’s chief botanist. He is employed at the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. Theo fell in love with the natural world on childhood trips to the Buffalo River with his parents. In the book that Theo and two colleagues wrote about Arkansas plant life, called Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines of Arkansas, you’ll see that he knows nature.
For a spring flower expedition, Theo suggests a hike along larger creeks in the mountains such as the state park trails at Pinnacle Mountain, Petit Jean, and Lake Catherine; the natural areas at Sweden Creek Falls, Devils Eyebrow, Rattlesnake Ridge, and Cossatot River State Park; and Hobbs State Park Conservation Area. Jonquils are still going strong, and Henbit, Dead-nettle, Bittercress, Field Pansy, and Speedwell are everywhere.
Speaking of Daffodils, Wye Mountain, a short drive from Little Rock, is an easy spot for seeing flowers. Over the decades, thousands of children have romped among the seven acres of Daffodils, whose story dates to the 1950s. A fellow named Austin Harmon walked into Hackett’s feed and seed store in Little Rock and spotted their last half-bushel of Daffodil bulbs.
Austin proposed a swap: If they would give him the bulbs, he would bring them a half-bushel of fresh bulbs the next spring.
For the next twenty years, Mr. Harmon grew the Daffodils on his land. Then he moved a load of bulbs down the road to Wye Methodist Church, where they still grow and are the star of the annual Daffodil Festival. Members of the church still tend them and sell them. They use proceeds from the sale of flowers and bulbs to assist the less-fortunate in their community.
At the governor’s residence, when I look out any window, I renew my hope that COVID-19 is almost behind us, and I know there is still much beauty in the world.