Spring is one of our favorite seasons, in great part because of the abundant and colorful wildflowers.
- Dutchman’s Breeches – Odd-shaped flowers give the plant its name. It has rich green foliage that rises from a scaly, bulbous base.
- Jack in the Pulpit – Small, inconspicuous flowers peek from the pale green or dark purple variegated base.
- Twinleaf – Blooms in early April. Has two equal leaflets that are long-stalked. The flowers have 8 white petals.
- Large-flowered Trillium – The parts of the flower are arranged in threes and gleam like white stars.
- Yellow Trout Lily – Early April finds the woods filled with these nodding yellow flowers, each arising between a pair of erect leaves mottled with purplish or whitish blotches.
- Cut-leaved Toothwort – One of the most common spring flowers, it has four-petaled white or pinkish clusters, tall stems and three leaves divided into deeply, cut-toothed leaflets.
- Pink Lady’s Slipper – Easily recognized by its pink flower on a stalk with 2 large opposite leaves at the base. The lip looks like an inflated pouch. It is a highly prized wild orchid.
- Spring Beauty – Its five-petaled flowers are beautifully colored—either white with pink veins or rose. One of the earliest seasonal flowers often forming a nearly complete ground cover in moist, open woods.
Ferns are exquisitely ornamental. These can be found along the Cacapon River and other moist, shady areas in the county.
- Christmas Fern – An evergreen, widely used for seasonal decorations.
- Royal Fern – Regal in appearance, 2 to 6 feet tall, with clusters of flower-like spores at the top.
- Bracken Fern – The largest of area ferns often reaching a height of seven feet.
- Cinnamon Fern – Its name is derived from the conspicuous cinnamon-brown masses of spores borne on a separate stalk from the leafy frond. The small, curled young fronds are called fiddle-heads and the hearts are often used in salads.
- Polypody – Handsome, evergreen with numerous fronds growing from its long, cord-like rootstock. Often found on rocks, logs and bases of tree trunks.
Start your Morgan County bird list with these twelve favorites.
- Cardinal – West Virginia’s state bird can be found in brushy areas year ’round. The male is bright red with a black face; the female is buff brown. Members of the finch family, they are accomplished songsters.
- Eastern Bluebird – Appearing in the Spring, both males and females are bright blue with a reddish-brown breast and white belly (the female is duller). Favoring open farmland with scattered trees, they build grassy nests in natural tree cavities, old woodpecker holes, fence posts and bird boxes.
- American Goldfinch – Small and bright yellow with a white rump, black forehead, white edges on black wings, it is often called the “Wild Canary.” They gather in large flocks in brushy thickets, weedy grasslands, and nearby trees. Listen year-round for the bright per-chick-o-ree voice also rendered as potato-chips.
- Blue Jay – Handsome, large, and bright blue with much white and black in the wing, tail and face with a prominent crest. the jay warns of predators with raucous screaming. Seemingly year-round, birds from farther north actually replace the local population in winter.
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Our smallest bird and only Eastern species has a glowing, fiery-red throat, metallic green back and needle-like bill. The female lacks the red throat. Constantly in motion, they are the only birds that can fly backwards as well as hover in one spot like an insect. Various flowers attract them.
- White-breasted Nuthatch – Blue-gray above with white underparts and face and black crown. It is usually seen creeping on tree trunks, often downward headfirst. Listen for the nasal yank-yank in deciduous and mixed forests. Pairs seem to remain together year ’round, for the species may be found in twos even in the dead of winter.
- Red-bellied Woodpecker – Seen year ’round, the male has a distinctive red crown and nape (back of neck); the female has a red nape only. It habitually stores food including insects and nuts.
- Black-capped Chickadee – With a black cap and throat, white cheeks, gray back and white underparts, this little bird buzzes its name to “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” frequently year ’round. They often feed upside down, clinging to the underside of twigs and branches in their search for insect eggs and larvae.
- Tufted Titmouse – Gray above and white below, with rust-colored sides and conspicuous crest. Its commonest call, sung year ’round and carrying a considerable distance, is a whistled series of 4 to 8 notes sounding like Peter-Peter repeated over and over. Often found in town.
- Screech Owl – Bright red-brown in overall color with ear tufts. Freezes in an upright position when discovered during the day. Listen for its mournful, descending “horse whinny.”
Great trees are an integral part of the natural decor of Morgan County. Here are some favorites.
- Red Maple – Easily recognizable by its red buds, flowers and, in fall, red leaves. In spring, its seeds have wings. The underside of the leaf appears white in contrast to the deep green of the upper leaf. Trees can grow up to 70 or 90 feet with trunks of 3 to 4 feet.
- Black Cherry (Sweetberry) – Oval, dark green leaves and drooping clusters of purplish cherries. Trees grow 60 to 75 feet with trunks up to 4 feet. Long, straight shoots angle off a straight trunk.
- Sycamore – Can have the largest trunk of any North American hardwood with diameters of up to 14 feet and heights of 140 feet. The thin bark often is scaly with blotches. There is a dangling seed ball.
- Tulip Poplar – West Virginia’s tallest and most handsome tree. Bees make delicious honey from the nectar in its greenish-yellow tulip-like flowers. Duck-bill shaped buds in Spring. Also called the yellow poplar. West Virginia’s millennium tree, marked with a plaque in Berkeley Springs State Park, is a tulip poplar.
- White Oak – The most valuable of several types of oak that cover most county mountainsides. Leaves have deeply cut, rounded lobes. Bark is light ashy to whitish-gray and its fruit, the acorn, is about an inch with a thick, knobby cap.
- Serviceberry (Sarvis) – Mostly shrubby in size with light lines spiraling along its trunk bark making it look twisted. Dense masses of white flowers are an early sign of spring. These mature into small red berries, technically small apples.
- Redbud – Generally a small, skinny tree that lines most county roadsides and is scattered along its hillsides. Its showy hot pink flowers are the earliest color of Spring. They appear all over the tree even on the trunk.
- Flowering Dogwood – A small, bushy tree, it seldom grows beyond 30 feet. The flowers are a greenish-yellow, come in May, and then produce scarlet, egg-shaped fruit.
- Black Walnut – A giant, handsome tree, often growing over 100 feet. It has a dark, rough bark and its jet-black hardwood is prized for furniture. The leaves are made up of 13 to 25 leaflets. The walnuts are produced inside greenish, fleshy husks that do not split naturally.
- White Pine – The state’s only soft pine, it is tall and stately often growing more than 175 feet. Its needles occur five in a cluster and upper limbs curve up at the tips. It bears large numbers of long, curved cones with thick scales. Prominent in reforestation efforts, many of the county’s mountainsides are covered with this evergreen.
- Eastern Red Cedar – A small tree, it seldom grows more than 30 feet. Leaves are scale-like and grow in pairs. The fruit looks like a round blueberry and bark is thin and reddish-brown.
- Hemlock- This 60-foot tree is often found along streams. Flat, blunt leaves with dark green needles appear to grow only from two sides of the twigs. Cones are short with rounded scales.
Shrubs contribute to the overall green ambience of Morgan County. As you hike, bike or drive, see if you can find these.
- Spicebush – In late March, its small but numerous pale yellow flowers decorate leafless woods. The red fruits, which mature in late summer, are relished by birds.
- Black Haw – Blue-black fruits remain through mid-winter as bird food. Often found in open fields.
- Black Elderberry – Game birds and rodents love the black fruit.
- Witchhazel – The area’s only autumn-flowering shrub. Its yellow flowers bloom from September until November and dry fruits require a year to ripen and burst throwing out seeds. Medicinal use for an extract from its bark.
- Blueberry – Late-season, low growth blueberries are collected as food and called huckleberries. Often found as part of a scrub covering heaths.
- Smooth Sumac (non-poisonous) – Easily recognizable by its fuzzy, red cone-shaped fruit and long, narrow leaflets on long stalks.
- Mountain Laurel – A member of the heath family, it is abundant and beautiful with its pink-tinged white clustered flowers.
LAND SHAPES AND LANDSCAPES
Part of the Ridge and Valley sector of the Appalachians, the central north/south valley of Morgan County is marked by two long parallel mountain ranges: Cacapon Mountain to the west and Sleepy Creek Mountain to the east. Roads along the lower ridges offer spectacular views of the two ranges.
Quartz-rich, Oriskany sandstone dominates the geology. Its natural tendency to fold contributes to the emergence of the famed warm mineral springs.
Water is a dominant feature in the local landscape including the springs, two rivers and numerous streams.