Country Roads: Wildflowers Add Color to Rural Roads | News, Sports, Jobs

A clouded sulfur butterfly feeds on top of a purple coneflower along Waverly Road recently. (Photo by Art Smith)

PARKERSBURG – Away from the interstate and major highways that connect cities and towns around Wood and Washington counties is an extensive network of smaller roads.

Wood County includes 366.6 miles of paved secondary roads, plus nearly 120 miles of tar and chip roads, 159.6 miles of gravel roads and 72 miles of other types such as primitive or unimproved, according to the West Virginia Division of Highways.

There are 341 miles of county roads in Washington County and 835 miles of township roads.

For the most part, they are sparsely populated and little used.

The job of keeping things shorn is a big job. Washington County mowers make two passes on the county road. Township roads generally receive one mowing per year, with some places getting a second pass.

Keller Lane is one of dozens of county roads lined with wildflowers. (Photo by Art Smith)

The quiet roadsides allow a wide variety of wildflowers to grow, and the wildflowers provide the perfect habitat for birds and insects.

Many roads are named after families who lived in the area, such as Henderson Lane and Cantwell Ridge Road.

Others are named after bodies of water like Little Kanawha River Road, Pond Creek Road, and Bull Run Road.

Others are named for rather unique circumstances, such as Lost Pavement Road, which local historian Bob Enoch says got its name when the crew simply ran out of material to complete its surface.

The wildflowers that grow along the roads are as different as the roads themselves, with names like bloodroot, Queen Anne’s lace, yellow lady’s shoe and may apple.

Queen Anne’s Lace along a Wood County lane. (Photo by Art Smith)

Motorists may notice black-eyed Susans, orange day lilies, Indian grass and red clover beside side roads in Wood County, said University of Virginia extension officer JJ Barrett -Western. Some plants with the word “weed” in their name are nevertheless very pleasing to the eye, like the orange flowers of butterfly weed, the purple flowers of ironweed or the pink flower of milkweed, he says.

Finding these local treasures is as easy as driving out of town and turning onto any road that doesn’t have a line in the middle and safety on the side.


Some of the wildflowers found in the area:

* Pepper and salt

Mullein grows along Oak Grove Road. (Photo by Art Smith)

* Painted Trillium

* Jack-in-the-desk

* Wild Columbine

* Blue Lupine

* Bloodthirsty

Tiger Lily blooms along a rural road. (Photo by Art Smith)

* Wild Geranium

* May apple

* Purple Echinacea

* Lizard Tail

Source: The Nature Conservancy

A small insect crawls over a chicory flower along Keller Lane. (Photo by Art Smith)

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Toya J. Bell