Trailing Arbutus

By William T. Hathaway

Trailing arbutus

From late March, well into April, I can't resist the temptation to visit a known site of the memorable Trailing Arbutus. Its small clusters of white or pink flowers are surrounded by evergreen leaves that are partly discolored by wintry frosts. Grandparents often tell how in past years, as they explored local woodlands, their spirits were uplifted by the beauty and fragrance of these little flowers.

Sandy and peaty soils of woodlands and mossy road banks may harbor this dainty spring species. For years the old dirt road west of Cherrystone Lake near Chatham has been my favorite spot for observing the Trailing Arbutus. Albeit at present time constructive road-widening is gnawing away at the Arbutus colonies, scattered along the north-facing slopes of this roadway. In a relatively protective site are those individually separated patches of Trailing Arbutus, located on the steep bluffs along the Dan River just upstream from the Old Danville Country Club. Needless to say, access to these particular plants is limited to persons who are enthusiastic climbers.