(Story by Burnetta Hinterthuer)
OCT. 30, 2011 | While driving Highway 16 on August 28, 2011, I noticed white flowers blooming along the highway but couldn’t get a really good view of them. Slowing down, I realized that they were flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata) putting on a really big show, one of the best displays I have ever seen that species make.
When we arrived at the parking place, there was a crowd already! It was hard to believe people wanted to come out on an August hot day to explore Kings River Falls. It could be that we had just been inside too long this summer, waiting out the 100 degrees heat. Linda Ellis arrived and then another three carloads of people. This was the best turnout in a long time and it was great to see new faces and meet new plant lovers.
We hiked upriver, finding the little threebirds orchid (Triphora trianthophora), which is ranked endangered or threatened in some states, although not in Arkansas. There was a fairly large population of the orchid scattered in the low area. We also observed nits and lice (Hypericum drummondii) and seeds of Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) along the trail. There was a bluff with lots of ferns, mosses, liverworts, and Arkansas alumroot (Heuchera villosa var. arkansana) shaded by the small trees that lined the road.
Once at the creek we found red alder (Alnus serrulata), ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) Ozark witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis), plus late summer gravel-bar-lovers roundfruit hedgehyssop (Gratiola virginiana) and sharpwing monkeyflower (Mimulus alatus).
After we ate lunch, we moved downriver to the Kings River Falls. The sign stated the trail was one half mile long; it seemed a longer, but it was unique in that large boulders were placed along part of the trail to provide flat or sloped surfaces on which to walk; the rest of the trail was sandy and rocky. Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) was growing in the sand along the trail. We also saw butterfly pea (Clitoria mariana), tall blazing star (Liatris aspera) and a large population of royal fern (Osmunda regalis) on the bank beside the trail. Rick Noyes pointed out a small spikesedge (Kyllinga pumila) that I had never noticed before.
The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission maintains the Kings River Falls Natural Area in Madison County. A map and more information are available here.
The Arkansas Native Plant Society organizes field trips throughout the year. Check the web site often for announcements of upcoming trips.
Editor’s Note: Burnetta Hinterthuer is an instructor in botany at Northwest Arkansas Community College.