After living through the last few months with either the white of the snow or the brown of the bare trees, I think we are all beginning to feel somewhat whimsical and are longing for the brilliant colors of the wildflowers and spring! Every Spring our beloved Smokies wake up to array themselves in their own unique display of wildflowers! Let’s take a short tour through some of our favorite Springtime blooms!
Fringed Phacelia is a white to pale lilac about 1/2″ wide, with a bell-shaped bloom of five fringed petals. The stem gets about 6 inches tall, and the leaves are generally white, with 5 to 9 blunt segments on each leaf. You can see a beautiful display of Fringed Phacelia at the Chimneys Picnic Area, during the first two weeks of April, as well as on the Chimney Tops Trail, and Newfound Gap Road.
There are 60-70 different speciea of Columbines. This flower is known for it bell-shaped flower, with each petal modified into an elongated nectar spur. The name is derived from the Latin word for “dove”. The flowers of various species of Colombine were consumed in moderation by Native Americans as a condiment with other fresh greens, and are reported to be very sweet, and safe if consumed in small quantities. However, I would stick to viewing this lovely flower, as the plant’s seeds and leaves are poisonous! These can be found on Laurel Creek Road, and Thomas Divide Trail.
These beauties appear from March to May, with delicate white petals blooming over clasping leaves. “Plants are found growing in moist to dry woods and thickets, often on flood plains and near shores or streams on slopes, they grow less frequently in clearings and meadows or on dunes, and are rarely found in disturbed sites.” Bloodroot flowers can be found on the Porters Creek Trail, and Rich Mountain Road.
Redbuds, is a genus of about 6-10 species in the subfamily Caesalpinioideae of the pea family Fabaceae, native to warm-temperate regions. They are small deciduous trees or large shrubs, characterised by simple, rounded to heart-shaped leaves and pinkish-red flowers borne in the early spring on bare leafless shoots.
“Fire Pink is a wildflower in the pink family, Caryophyllaceae. It is known for its distinct brilliant red flowers. Each flower is approximately five centimeters in diameter and composed of five notched, brilliant red petals which extend into a long tube. It is a small (20-80 cm tall), short-lived perennial (2-3 years), with lance shaped leaves. Its stems, and the bases of the flowers, are covered in short sticky hairs. Fire Pink begins blooming in late spring and continuing throughout the summer. It can be found on Little River Road and the Chestnut Top Trail.
Yellow Lady’s Slipper
There are actually several orchids referred to as “Yellow Lady’s Slipper Orchid”. One species, Cypripedium pubescens, is native to Illinois and surrounding states in the American Midwest, and it is used as a medicinal plant. It grows anywhere from 12 to 30 inches tall and has smooth, slipper-shaped yellow flowers.
Yellow Trillium “is a spring wildflower with native populations in the Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding areas. It occurs in parts of North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky, usually in the shade of mature deciduous trees on calcium-rich soils. It is especially abundant around Gatlinburg. It is often planted outside its native range, and is highly regarded for its yellow, lemon-scented flower. The mottled leaves are also handsome. Yellow Trillium can be found on Tremont Road, and Cove Hardwood Nature Trail.
White Trillium “is a perennial monocotyledonous plant in the lily family. It is native to eastern North America from southern Canada in the north, south in the United States through the Appalachian Mountains into northernmost Georgia and west to Minnesota. There are also several disjunctive populations, such as in Nova Scotia and Iowa. The plant is most common in rich deciduous and mixed upland forests. It is easily recognised by its attractive three-petaled white flowers, opening from the late spring to the early summer, that rise above a whorl of three, leaf-like bracts.” These can be found on Newfound Gap Rd, and the Cove Hardwood Nature Trail.
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