Everyone knows that leaves change colors and fall off in the fall, but there are also a lot of plants that hold on to their green leaves all year round. On your next winter hike in the Smokies, keep your eyes open for these evergreen plants.
Most of us would recognize rhododendrons by their beautiful flowers that bloom in June. In the winter, their blooms are gone, and the plants don’t stand out as much but they are still there, leathery green leaves and all. When it gets really cold, the leaves actually curl up to prevent water loss.
Next time you get a chance, touch the leaf of an evergreen plant. Is it tough and leathery or waxy? Having waxy leaves helps the plant retain moisture. Evergreen leaves need to be strong to withstand snow, ice and wind during the winter.
Here is another evergreen plant you will likely encounter on a winter hike in the Smokies. The name “dog hobble” refers to the dense tangle of branches that can be difficult to walk through especially on steep slopes (especially for a dog).
One benefit of retaining leaves through the winter is not having to regrow them in the spring. When all other plants are growing new leaves, the evergreens are ahead of the game.
Hemlocks are the most abundant evergreen tree in the Park. You may notice a white fuzz on the underside of the branches. This is from the hemlock wooly adelgid. This small insect was accidentally brought in from Asia and is attacking hemlocks all over the Eastern US. The small aphid-like insects attach themselves to the base of the needles and feed on the sap. This causes the needles to fall off one by one, until the tree dies. The white “wool” is a protective coating secreted by the insect. Learn more at the Park’s website.
This fern is green all year. In many places it is the only fern that is still green at Christmas time and was often used in decorations, giving it the name “Christmas Fern.” This beautiful plant is one of the most common ferns in the Smokies and easy to find.
Go out and take a walk in the woods. If you pay close attention, you will be amazed at how many things are still green!
This blog is sponsored in part by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg, TN. For more information on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 1-800-309-0277. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.