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In the quest for early bloomers at Bear Creek

By Tom Gilpin,
Florida Forest Service senior forester,
Bear Creek Educational Forest

About this time last year, I met an elderly couple from Columbus, Ohio heading out from our parking lot to hike the three-mile Bear Creek Trail. They were on a mission to find “Trout Lilies” that a friend had said were blooming on Bear Creek at the time.

Since it wasn’t clear to me whether they’d driven all the way from the “Buckeye State” just to catch these rare flowers in bloom, I gently told them that their friend might’ve been mistaken — that I was aware of concentrations of the rare Trout Lily on other forests but not on Bear Creek.

But, reluctant to completely squash their enthusiasm, I added, “But I could be mistaken, since my specialty as a forester was trees, not flowers — they could be here and I just didn’t recognize them.”

With that, their excitement re-kindled, so I told them about a small population of “Rain Lilies” — a member of the amaryllis family — now in bloom on the trail they would hike.

I showed them on their trail map where to look for the delicate pinkish-white petals of the lilies rising from green grass-like patches on the forest floor in the creek bottom. After hearing this, their enthusiasm for the hike was barely containable so I sent them on their way. As I watched them walk away, arm-in-arm, giggling over the map like young sweethearts, I once again thought how fortunate I am to have a job where I can help direct people in pursuit of the natural quiet beauty of our forests.

So, reader, if you haven’t seen these Bear Creek bottomland jewels, I hope you’ll be inspired to venture out to enjoy them and other early-season bloomers of the forest before it’s too late!

Also, school teachers and summer camp leaders alike, if you’re still looking for a day-trip adventure, please call us to set up a trip to our facility (located at 54 McCall Bridge Road in Quincy).

For more information about Bear Creek, call me at (850) 681-5892.