Spring springs forth at AEDC

A bee harvests pollen from a native violet at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., March 22, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jill Pickett)

A cooler than normal May has put nature into slow motion as more seasonable temperatures are expected in the coming week. However, despite the unusually nippy conditions that persisted deep into the month, some things don’t change.

The first week of May each year is recognized as National Wildflower Week, a celebration started by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. According to the center’s website, the observance began in 1987 “to celebrate the beauty and importance of native wildflowers across the United States.”

The website acknowledges that ‘wildflower’ is not actually a scientific term but generally refers to wild, non-woody, flowering plants. According to an article on U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service website, wildflowers provide habitat for pollinators, can improve soil health, prevent erosion, improve water quality and provide other benefits.

Environmental stewardship is an important part of responsibly executing the mission at Arnold Air Force Base. The Natural Resources team surveys and manages wildflowers listed as endangered or threatened by the state of Tennessee. Some of these wildflowers are only found in a few locations in the state, so management efforts by base personnel are important to their conservation. A few of the state-listed species that can be found at Arnold AFB include prairie gentian (Gentiana puberulenta), least trillium (Trillium pusillum var. pusillum) and Kentucky lady’s slipper (Cypripedium kentuckiense).

AEDC consists of approximately 40,000 acres of land, with much of that being wooded, and only an approximately 4,000 acres currently designated for use in support of the mission. Even within the confines of the fenced portion of base, wildflowers bloom adding color to the fields and woodlands.