At the south end of the Fern Glade the visitor passes a stoutly globular buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), negotiates a picturesque foot bridge spanning a small creek studded with cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), and steps onto the Mathews Nature Trail. This network of foot paths meanders along the creek through a typical southeastern lowland forest, largely consisting of black gum, red maple, sycamore, and sweet gum trees. The understory, however, while containing many ferns, vines, and other plants common to such a setting, also features a wealth of other species of shrubs and herbaceous plants found in a variety of environments throughout the Southeast.
Spring finds the trail awash with the soft, billowing lavender of wild sweet William (Phlox divaricata); the dainty, nodding, crownlike blossoms of eastern wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis); the fuzzy, bottlebrush inflorescences of foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia); and a host of other spring-flowering gems. The trillium collection greets visitors with an array of blooms from Eastern US natives of this diverse genus.
Summer sees the expansive, sun-catching beds at the south end of the trail light up with fiery scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea), stately blue American bellflower (Campanula americana), and sunshine yellow black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta).
In fall, the trail glows with the purples, golds, and warm red of sweet gum, red maple, black gum, and muscadine leaves.
Even in winter there is the bright wink of an occasional Hepatica and – always – the song and movement of birds, as a section of the Lewis Birding Trail extends within the Mathews Nature Trail.
The Holmes Trillium Garden is located within the Mathews Nature Trail.