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Another spectacular Piedmont wildflower display

2011 August 4

By Ken Moore
Flora Columnist

I jump for joy when I view a field of wildflowers, especially here in our Piedmont region.

Rosinweed flowers in spite of heat and drought. Photo by Ken Moore

Such was the case last Friday at Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve, just north of Durham, near where Old Oxford Road crosses the Eno River. The N.C. Botanical Garden has managed this 84-acre remnant Piedmont savanna ecosystem for several decades. Garden staff and volunteers plan and execute seasonal prescribed fires as a biological management tool in pursuit of returning the area to its former historical savanna status.

Seasonal savanna wildflower displays are returning to the site. Some of you may have enjoyed one of the Botanical Garden’s interpretive walks offered earlier in the year to view blue wild indigo, wild quinine and smooth coneflower. Just now, the forest edges and open areas are filled with rosinweed, Silphium astericus, in full flower. Though small populations of rosinweed occur here and there along our rural roadsides, the current display at Penny’s Bend is no less than spectacular.

Rosinweeds stand tall near pond at Penny’s Bend. Photo by Ken Moore

In spite of 100-plus-degree heat and drought, the field was alive with butterflies and other winged pollinators. Coming into peak flower on the heels of the Silphium are three species of goldenrod, and numerous marsh mallows and buttonbushes continue to flower along the pond edges. The display of wildflowers and grasses will continue through the fall.

From the parking area near the Eno River bridge, a walking path provides access to the preserve’s trails, which are maintained for self-guided walks. If you plan now, you can register for a Botanical Garden ( fall excursion to Penny’s Bend. Ed Harrison, preserve-management committee member, will be leading two walks in October to catch later spectacular wildflower and native grasses displays.

Last Friday was a special occasion at the preserve. The Botanical Garden unveiled a bronze plaque on a boulder at the site’s highest point, designating it “Cash Point,” recognizing Wayne and Hazel Cash for their years of stewardship on the land. Hazel and Wayne were residents of the site when Falls Lake became a reality. The Army Corps of Engineers, N.C. Division of Water Resources and the Botanical Garden Foundation joined hands to designate the site a preserve of biological significance, and Wayne and Hazel remained in their home on the land for many years as site managers and preserve curators for the Botanical Garden.

A plaque honoring Wayne and Hazel Cash for their many years of stewardship at Penny’s Bend Photo by Ken Moore

The hot July day selected for the recognition was determined by Wayne’s annual summer visit to his old stomping grounds. The extreme heat prevented Hazel from attending; however, she was present in the many comments of appreciation and happy stories that attendees told about the Wayne and Hazel Cash days at Penny’s Bend.

Whenever and wherever we make time to step out on nature’s pathways, how wise of us to pause and reflect and be appreciative of folks, like Wayne and Hazel, who have walked the land before us.

Email Ken Moore at

Find previous Ken Moore Citizen columns at The Annotated Flora.

Many supporters braved 100-degree heat to honor Wayne (standing, left of rock) and Hazel Cash at Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve. Photo by Mike Kunz

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