Location: On the edge of Long Hunter State Park
Size of Park: On the medium-small side
Approximate Age of Patrons: mid-30s and a dog who was acting like she was 87
Topics of Conversation: "I can see the car. Are you going to fink out on me 100 feet from the car every week this summer?"
Stray Dogs Seen: None
Types of Vehicles in Parking Lots: Sedan
Perceived Safety: Medium high
Number of Gunshots Heard: None
Dog Friendliness: I thought high, the dog thought there wasn't enough shade or creek
Number of pitbulls sighted: Mine
Accessibility: You must be able to walk and fairly steady on your feet
Incorporation of Local History: None
Recommended Patrons: Plant enthusiasts, fans of conservation
So, let's talk for a second about E. tennesseensis, otherwise known as the Tennessee Purple Coneflower. If you're familiar with coneflowers, E. tennesseensis, though the same genus, has some major differences. The two most easily spotted ones are that the leaves are a lot narrower, more shaped like fat blades of grass than the elongated kind of diamond shape of a regular coneflower, and (unlike a regular coneflower) the petals always stay straight out like a daisy instead of that more familiar shuttlecock-like arrangement.
It is also extremely rare. I mean, extremely. How rare? It grows in only a handful of places (between three and five as far as I can tell from internet searches) and all of them are within a very small radius right where Davidson, Rutherford and Wilson counties meet. Your chances of seeing a wild Tennessee coneflower on accident are only a little better than your chances of seeing Bigfoot.
That is why I must encourage you to go and to go right now — don't even worry about finishing this review. Work can do without you. Shoot, you know the internet isn't going anywhere. Go see them now while they are in bloom.
Here's what you do. Go east on I-40. Take the Mt. Juliet exit, but go south on 171. Once you cross Stewart's Ferry Pike, pay attention. Mt. Juliet Road is going to veer to your left and Hobson Pike will go right. Hobson Pike is the main road, but you want to stay on Mt. Juliet Road (so, in effect, you're kind of veering left onto a side road). You need to be watching along the right side of the road. You will see a white mailbox with kind of a barn motif and the road will curve to the right. Slow down, because you cannot see the entrance to the nature area until you are right up on it. I had great directions and I drove past it twice; it comes up just that suddenly. If you hit Couchville Pike, you have gone too far.
The path is very rocky, and even though you'd think going into a cedar glade would entail shade from cedars, the path is very sunny. Be sure you're wearing good shoes for walking and a hat. The whole path is only a mile, but, whew, that sun in this weather will get you towards the end. Be sure to have water.
Now, honestly, I was expecting, I don't know, maybe 10 plants. So when we got to the first area where there were Tennessee coneflowers, I left the trail to go over and take pictures. And then I felt like a chump for walking over the terrain of such an endangered species. Learn from my mistakes, folks. Don't panic. Just a little further ahead, the trail takes you right through fields of Tennessee coneflowers. You can get right up next to them without having to leave the trail.
And there are so many. Everywhere you look, there are all these kind of silvery purple plants, growing out of what doesn't even look like soil. I tried to get some pictures of how they just spring up from this rocky barren ground. If you can't tell from these pictures, you can check out my blog, or go see for yourself.
There's something really, deeply awe inspiring about seeing something that is literally only right here. These flowers are wild in no other place.
And you can just go see them, for free. In a park in our town.
It blows my mind. I know it's corny, but I felt like I was the luckiest gal in the world to be able to just go see these flowers, blooming like mad, where they have probably since the last ice age.
I don't know how much longer they'll be in bloom. But if you're going to go this year, I wouldn't put it off.