Bull Run Regional Park, Manassas, Virginia April 3, 2023

When we arrived at Bull Run Regional park in the early afternoon of April 3rd, 2023, we were so ecstatic to see the seemingly endless Bluebells covering the vast floodplain. I wanted to capture the astounding visual beauty on camera for all to see and feel. I was able to do live reporting on site, posting photos on the Sanguine Root right from the spot, as we were viewing the spectacle. It was so exciting to see the freshly blooming Mertensia virginica, in such a magnificent display, the species had arrived into the above ground world from dormancy and created this impressive atmosphere of spring, color and rejuvenation. The excitement of this worldly display, having us both ensconced in this novel botanical marvel of spring, quickly evolved into an interesting meditation about the ephemeral, the eternal and oblivion. The next picture describes the mood of the scene: the fresh astounding beauty of the newly emerged Bluebells against the backdrop of a long dead tree. Within weeks of this photo, the Bluebell pictured below will be a withered yellow form of itself, following the path of its tree neighbor.

The images and the landscape before our eyes became so iridescent and its sublime beauty bubbled up starkly! Those gorgeous and fresh Bluebells, so magnificent and startlingly beautiful this afternoon, both contrast and compliment the dead trees in their midst! We know so well, both having lived ourselves over half a century, that those Bluebells will be gone as quickly as they emerged.

In a way, we are staring into space. Each flower is a galaxy. We are observing eternity in full color, in full bloom and it is completely ephemeral.


The Lower Susquehanna River is graced with magnificent bluffs, reminiscent to me of the majestic bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River in Illinois and Iowa. I draw the comparison between the two, not as a contrast, but as an epiphany highlighting the nature and geology of North America’s grand rivers. The Susquehanna and the Mississippi share this grandeur on different geologic terrain, rivers that have never or will ever meet, yet share so many of the great river qualities.

Ferncliff Wildflower Preserve, sadly, never reaches the shores of the Susquehanna, which defines the creation story of the land the preserve is on. However, when we reach the top of the recently designated white blazed trail, the whole picture falls into place, and it all makes sense. The view is magnificent and it tells the story of millions of years of development of the Susquehanna River and its bluffs.

The Bluebells, Paw Paw trees, Trilliums and the many other species continue the narrative of the biological evolution.

Ferncliff Wildflower Preserve is very remote and has limited parking (first come first serve) with a very narrow trail leading up to the top of the bluff. Along the top there are rocks to sit on. This place has a contemplative quality about it.

Active railroad tracks along the river

White bluebells! Interestingly alongside a red Trillium erectum, which in this general area are mostly white and even named Susquehanna Trillium because of their regional difference.

The only specimen of red Trillium erectum we saw in the whole preserve!

The white Mertensia, another genetic anomaly found here!


Our first ever visit here was in 2009, and we heard about it from whispers among fellow botanical enthusiasts relating unbelievable tales of these hillsides covered in Mertensia virginica and vast patches of Trilliums almost two feet tall, and Dicentra covered trailsides. All located in this magical ravine along the Lower Susquehanna River. We found directions online and painstakingly drove there, ending up on a treacherous and very isolated dirt road with a creepy abandoned railroad tunnel we had to drive through and eventually the road ended and there was a meager sign announcing that this was the place. Indeed it was, and we were overwhelmingly enchanted. My pictures from that day are lost forever in the digital black hole, except one or two that have survived. Since the Lancaster Conservancy has become the new caretaker, there has been a whole generation of improvements and popularity. It was nice to see these infrastructural improvements and also signage to remind people to stay on the trails and not trample the flowers. We have been here almost every year since 2009 and have written extensively in past posts about the flowers including some in depth discussion about the Susquehanna Trillium, a unique Trillium erectum v. album, that is particular to this specific localized region. Lastly it must be noted for the record that Shenks Ferry is truly the most iconic of the many beautiful rich ravines of the Lower Susquehanna. A regionally beloved natural preserve such as this can hopefully be an engaging tool towards reinforcing a public awareness of the many threats faced towards sensitive habitats and species diversity.