Each year as summer ends and the calendar turns to fall, Stone Mountain and smaller neighboring mountains Arabia and Panola are enlivened with splashes of golden color as yellow daisies make their annual appearance.
Locally, the area has celebrated the flower’s appearance with two iconic events. Stone Mountain Park’s Yellow Daisy Festival, held annually for more than 50 years, billed itself as “one of America’s largest and most popular arts and crafts festivals.” Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year—although the park is open on a limited basis—the festival, rather than hosting hundreds of people as it has in the past, has been reduced to online offerings from participating artists.
A more recently established event honoring the wildflower—known to horticulturists as Helianthus porter—is Daisy Days, a three-year-old tradition of the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance that invites visitors to enjoy the blooms on Stone Mountain, Arabia Mountain and Panola Mountain.
“Although one of the plant’s unofficial names is the Stone Mountain Daisy, it appears in rock outcrops through the Southeastern United States, especially in the granite formations of the Georgia Piedmont region,” explained Zack Loehle, the alliance’s communications manager, adding that in past years guided tours were held to allow visitors to see yellow daisies at their finest.
Like the Stone Mountain festival, Daisy Days has been modified this year to safeguard the health of visitors and staff. A combination in-person and virtual event, this year’s Daisy Days sends hikers to explore the area on their own and report the experience online. “Really, only a small part of the event will be virtual—sending us information and photos. Those participating in the hike-as-you-like event still will be getting out in the fresh air and enjoying the beautiful daisies.”
Describing the sprays of daisies as “visually striking,” Loehle said there are subtle differences in the way they present themselves at each location, as participants in the alliance’s Daisy Days Triple Hike Challenge can note.
Outdoor enthusiasts are invited to hike all three sites individually or in small groups. “Yellow daisies normally appear in late August and remain until around the start of fall, the third week in September. The exact days depend on such factors as temperatures and rainfall each year, but we can be sure they’ll be out in early September,” he noted.
During the Daisy Days Triple Hike Challenge, which continues throughout September, participants are urged to get a “passport,” available on the alliance’s website, to be eligible for a daisy-themed prize. Loehle said participants don’t have to sign up in advance and may visit the website to report their experiences and submit photos.
Loehle said that “while at times the rock outcrops seem barren, especially during the scorching summers, fall and winter see a profusion of wildflowers grow out of patches of thin soil called ‘solution pits.’ The Daisy Days Triple Hike Challenge is an opportunity to celebrate the botanical bounty growing on the rock outcrops—also called “monadnocks”—as autumn begins. A gorgeous floral display awaits those who visit at the right times of year.”
He reminds hikers to take safety precautions to maintain their health and the health of others. In addition to the normal safeguards advised for hikers, he suggested cleaning hands regularly—either by washing or hand sanitizer—wearing a mask and staying home when one feels sick.
Daisy Days Triple Hike Challenge is the fall counterpart to the spring Monadnock Madness event, “an outdoor extravaganza in which people can enjoy triple hikes, mountaintop yoga, photography workshops and dozens of other events throughout March. Monadnock Madness accompanies another floral explosion on the granite outcrops, as plants such as the atamasco lily, granite stonecrop and diamorpha burst into vibrant spring bloom,” an announcement from the alliance states.
Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance presents Daisy Days in partnership with Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve, Friends of Panola Mountain State Park, Panola Mountain State Park and Stone Mountain Memorial Association. For more information, visit www.arabiaalliance.org.
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