Virginia Bluebells, Cub Run, Northern Virginia (April 13, 2013)
At this time of the year, the landscape photographer is overloaded with opportunities as the earth’s natural cycle of renewal accelerates with frenetic speed. The opportunities are usually so brief that it helps to maintain a “schedule” of what is going to happen, when, and where. For example, every year in mid-April, sections of nondescript wooded areas in northern Virginia are briefly transformed into a dazzling carpets of blue and white. The two flowering plants responsible for this amazing and all-too-brief display are the Virginia bluebell and the Virginia spring beauty. And this morning I went out to see them again.
April 19, 2014
Photomerge of 4 images to create 48″ wide print, Nikon D800E & 24-70 mm lens, 1/80th sec. @ f/16
The bluebell is a native plant that was present long before the first European settlers arrived here. Thomas Jefferson grew them at Monticello, and 19th-century garden writers sometimes called them “Jefferson’s blue funnel flowers.” Stream banks, low moist woods, and floodplains are the plant’s native habitat. While the spring beauty has a broader range, it almost always is found in the company of the bluebells.
Bluebells along Potomac River, (April 19, 2009)
Nikon D200, 18-200mm f/3.5 lens, 0.4 sec @ f/29
The plant has a fleeting existence above ground, appearing for just a brief period each year. There are only a few weeks of warm weather before the life giving sunlight is blocked out by the emerging leaves of the overhead tree canopy. The bluebell must grow rapidly and it quickly reaches a height of about two feet. Then clusters of bell-shaped blossoms emerge just as the first insect pollinators, critical to the plant’s survival, begin to search for nectar.
Bluebells at Cub Run, Northern Virginia, (April 2004)
Nikon F100, Ektachrome 100VS film
The Bluebell can be found in many places in the Northern Virginia area, but one of the best locations is in Bull Run Regional Park along a stream known as Cub Run. This is a large park with many activities and the correct trail is not especially obvious. Check with a park official if you aren’t sure. Another excellent location can be found in Riverbend Park in Great Falls, Virginia. This park is adjacent to the Virginia side of Great Falls National Park, which also boasts excellent displays of the bluebells.
But hurry. They won’t be here much longer.