As spring trickles down calendars, unburdening folks from winter, flowers bloom marking the occasion. To celebrate this rebirth, the Cedars of Lebanon State Park hosts a wildflower festival each year to honor the legacy of Elsie Quarterman, a prominent botanist and environmental preservationist.
The two-day event starts Friday night at the Juniper Gazebo will run into Saturday. This weekend will mark the 43nd installment of the festival that features a full day of informative walks highlighting birds, butterflies, geology and native plant gardening. These activities are suited for families and are designed to excite children about the cedar glades and wildflowers.
Friday night’s lineup will feature Steve Murphee, a professor at Belmont University who will speak on bees and the state parks honey project. Afterward, Park Manager Jeff Buchanan plans to discuss how the cedar forest is expanding and what you can do to help.
On Saturday, a couple of three-hour hikes will take guests through the park. Anyone interested can register at the Cedar Forest Lodge. Several other events that start as early as 7 a.m. include the bird walk, Hoots in the Glades, a segment dedicated to the Owls Hill Sanctuary. Another event called the Owl Prowl will take place at 7 p.m. at the Sadie Ford Farm, an extension of the park.
The state park that sits about 10 miles south of Lebanon is known for its cedar glades, a biologically unique ecosystem that thrives in middle Tennessee. The cedar glades occur when bedrock such as limestone rises to near surface level.
They characteristically have shallow and minimal soil development, making it difficult for large trees to grow. However, some species still make their home in the glades and those species will be on display at the festival Saturday.
Park Ranger Sara Geeslin is stationed at Cedars of Lebanon State Park. She’s been with the state for over five years and has spent about half that time in Lebanon.
Geeslin said the festival would have something for everybody. “Typically it’s been a scientific festival, but we also go on hikes and visit the butterfly garden.”
Geeslin said the festival is a fun way for young and old people alike to learn about a very unique ecological phenomenon that they just can’t get anywhere else.
Ironically, at first glance, cedar glades don’t appear to be anything more than just rocky top soil. Geeslin said that when environmentalists first discovered the glades, that they were being used more like a landfill than a protected nature preserve.
Thanks to Quarterman’s life work in the field, a lot more is now known about cedar glades, their uniqueness, and what it will take to preserve them. She is also credited with bringing the Tennessee coneflower back from the endangered species list. The flower is one of several that can grow in the state park.
During the festival, attendees will have a chance to see nearly twenty species of plants native to this region that grow out of the cedar glades. Although the thin soil doesn’t make for abundant root growth, these species are adapted to survive the conditions.
Geeslin said that as a park ranger, the primary goal in everything they do is to preserve and protect the wildlife under their care. This festival is no exception. There is no charge for admission, but donations are welcome. If interested in donating, but unable to attend the festival, visit the Friends of Cedars of Lebanon website, https://friendsof cedars.com, for more information.
The wildflower festival is co-sponsored by Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Cedar Glade Studies. Cedars of Lebanon State Park is located at 328 Cedar Forest Road.