Smoky mountains wildflowers trip
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32 amazing spring wildflowers I spotted at Smoky Mountains, before an overwhelming epiphany!

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Pampered by none other than Nature herself, they are proud, proud beings! :)

They live in the tough terrains of mountains, in some unknown, unvisited trails of the forests. And when you somehow manage to reach them, you find these beauties dancing in the wind with their own mysterious joy, totally oblivious of the attention they are getting.

Oh yes. I have so often seen that look of pride on those pristine faces. Wildflowers!

Despite this acting pricey, I love them. Perpetually.

With over 1400 species of wildflowers, more than in any other North American national park, the Great Smoky Mountains National park is world renowned for its variety of wildflowers. 

For a wildflowers crazy person like me, when I am at Smokies in the spring – well, what can I say, it’s a “kid in a candy store” case… :P

If you relate to this fascination and would like to visit the Smoky Mountains National Park to see the incredible wildflowers there, read on, because here I have shared the list and trivia about 32 odd species of wildflowers I spotted at the Smokies in spring, around Mid-April.

But if you are simply curious about my epiphany, you can scroll down all the way to the end! :)

Now, I was there at the Smoky Mountains National Park  JUST FOR THE WILDFLOWERS this time. And so, I made sure to grab this very useful Wildflowers trails map (available at visitor centers) and this cutest book on wildflowers out there, with me – for identifying them.

Smokies_wildflowertrails_map

For your reference, I found all these 32 species in one of the following trails:

Oconaluftee River Trail, Porters Creek Trail, Little River Trail & Chestnut Top Trial.


PART I

Mouse-over/Tap on the Image to reveal the wildflower name,

Click to view larger image,

Scroll down to the name to know the trivia. 

Identify. Know. Enjoy! :)

1. Crested Dwarf Iris

I spotted these complex looking flowers quietly blossoming by the side of the creek at the Porters Creek Trail.

They are generally found in rich, moist open woods and trail-sides.

Do you know, each yellow crest on the blue-purple sepals leads pollinating insects toward the nectar hidden deep in the flower?

2. Flowering Dogwood

Well, first things first! This beautiful flowers have been named Wildflower of the year 2018 by the Virginia Native Plant Society!

Flowering Dogwood is not a plant, instead it’s a tree of a medium height, and boy, they have blossomed so generously throughout the woodlands of Smokies!

3. Foam Flower

They are found mostly in moist woodlands and stream banks, I found it at the Porters Creek Trail.

The delicate spikes of this Spring wildflower rest on a totally leafless stalk, and its leaves resemble the Maple leaves.

4. Blue Phlox

These were the wildflowers I spotted the most. They were present practically in almost every trail I visited inside rich woods.

The plants are tall with a dazzling display of blue to purple flowers. The five notched petals radiate from a very narrow tube.

When tightly wrapped in a bud, they form the shape like a torch. “Phlox” is Greek for flame! :)

5. Mountain Krigia

These rare flowers can be confused for Dandelions. The ray flowers have fringed tips. Most of its leaves are basal, though there may be a few on the flowering stem.

Its habitat is mostly crevices of moist cliffs, grassy balds and specially, Mt. Le Conte.

6. Bulbous Buttercup

These flowers have cup-shaped flowers made of 5 petals. Flowers are usually bright yellow colored, with shiny petals. This is because of the special layer of reflective cells  located beneath the superficial cells of the petals! :)

Several species of buttercups have orange, red or white flowers too.

And you know what…all parts of a buttercup are poisonous for cattle and humans!

7. Heal All

As the name implies, Heal-all was used medicinally. It was thought to be particularly effective for diseases of the mouth.

These plants are low-growing, sprawling ones and can be found at woodland edges, trail sides and stream-sides.

I found them aplenty at the cutest – Chestnut Top Trail.

8. Rue Anemone

Now with this one, I found the leaves so much interesting and fun shaped! :)

In ancient times, Persians considered Anemone species so poisonous it could foul the air, and so they often held their breath when passing this plant!

You can find these wildflowers in the rich woods around the Newfound gap road and Bradley fork trail.

9. Showy Orchis

Nope, there is no spelling mistake here! :)

They are type of an Orchid, and known as “Showy Orchis”, and as expected, as “Showy Orchid” too.

You saw the picture above, right? Do I even need to say that these are one of the prettiest wildflowers of Smokies?

I found this gorgeousness at the Porters Creek Trail.

10. Yellow Trillium

This kind of Trillium have a single, yellow flower sitting atop these three huge leaves. Every time I looked at them I thought of a pretty girl wearing a flowy, oversized skirt! :)

The flower has petals narrow and erect, giving it the look of being a “closed” bud. I saw hundreds of these in the park and kept thinking that they are yet to “open/bloom” only to realize later in the day (after researching in the book) that they are like that only!

All Trillium are characterized by having their parts in three of multiples thereof.  Three leaves, three petals, three sepals, three stigmas, six stamens etc. So cool… isn’t it? :)

I found them mostly in the Little River Trail.

11. Thyme Leaved Bluets

These tiny flowers are one of the cutest wildflowers I have come across till date. Four blue petals surround a yellow spot in center.

They grow in dozens in patches and make for a very pleasing mosaic. Not just for us humans to see but also for pollinators like bees, butterflies etc.

I have spotted them in plenty, at the Clingmans Dome in Summer as well.

12. Pink Trillium

According to folklore, trillium is a symbol for modest beauty… :)

When White Trillium age, they become pink!

All the botanical characteristics mentioned in the Yellow Trillium (No.11 above) also apply to the white/pink ones too.

Did you know, Trillium are pollinated by Ants? And they are the favorite food of the white tailed deer? :)

13. Umbrella Leaf

These wildflowers get their name from their leaves – they look like an open umbrella left standing.

The plant’s small cluster of white, six-petaled flowers rise on a stalk so above the leaves that you get confused, really! :)

I saw them at the Chestnut Top Trail.

14. Beaked Violet

This flower’s lower petal has a delicate upward curving protrusion, which makes it look like a beak!

Only the lower three petals have dark blue/violet lines that work as nectar guides.

These unique Violets can be found in moist, rich woods and often near Eastern Hemlock trees.

PART II

Mouse-over/Tap on the Image to reveal the wildflower name,

Click to view larger image,

Scroll down to the name to know the trivia. 

Identify. Know. Enjoy! :)

15. Wild Geranium

The bright purplish pink blossoms of this plant can be identified from a distance.

When you look closely, the five petals have fine lines leading towards the nectar. In the 1700s a botanist first theorized that bees use these lines to find a flower’s nectar.

I found these beauties at the Porters Creek Trail.

16. White Trillium

With huge single white flowers sitting upon the characteristic three leaves of the Trillium, they are probably showiest of the Trillium.

When they fade with age, these flowers turn pink, signaling to the pollinators that pollination has happened.

Do you know, Native Americans chewed the rhizomes of this plants to fight the effects of a snakebite.

As already mentioned in other Trillium trivia above, I found these in the Little River Trail in a huge number.

17. Wild Stonecrop

I saw these flowers with succulent leaves grown on the slopes of the Chestnut Top Trail.

This plant has this distinct three-spokes arrangement for the flowering stems. According to Mountain folklore, if these wildflowers thrives near your home, good times follow!

18. Star Cheekweed

Birds search widely for this plant’s seeds, so the name – “Chickweed”!

This flower is fun! Just go back to its picture and tell me how many petals are there in a flower?

10. I hear you say.  I am sorry, that’s not correct…What appears as 10 petals are actually just five! Each petal is cut almost to its base and thus gives this false impression. In past, mountain tribes believed that if a Chickweed flower is open, it’s a guarantee for few hours without rain! :)

19. Smooth Solomon’s Seal

“Wait, where are the flowers here?” – You might have exclaimed looking at the picture of this plant.

See those small tubular things hanging hidden below the leaves on the gracefully arching stems? They are the flowers. :)

I found this rare hidden flowers accidentally when I bent down to pick up something while walking on the Chestnut Top Trail.

20. Northern White Violet

These elusively scented tiny white flowers prefer rich forest and cool shaded woods.

Did you know, ancient Greeks and the Romans used Violets for all sorts of things such as herbal remedies, for festivals, for making wine and to sweeten foods?

21. Fringed Phacelia

These densely packed early spring flowers prefer moist woods, and can be found at the Chimney Tops Trail and Newfound Gap Road.

These white flowers look so delicate! They are about half inch wide and have a bell-shaped corolla with five spreading deeply fringed lobes.

22. Robin’s Plaintain

These flowers are from Daisy family with this special Lilac ray flowers. This plant is throughout hairy.

They grow in open, moist woods, woodland edges and thickets. I found hundreds of these beautiful flowers in the Porters creek trail, with so many bumble bees hovering over them! :)

23. Meadow Parsnip

Meadow Parsnip has tiny yellow flowers in a branched, wide cluster. The central flower of each cluster is on a small stalk. The way these flowers are arranged on a plant is termed as “inflorescence.”

They are found in woods and stream banks.

24. Golden Ragwort

Common Ragwort, a member of the aster family, is a biennial plant, flowering in its second year (this made me smile as I spotted them in the Smokies woods aplenty this year!)

It has clusters of yellow daisy like flowers, and much divided leaves that almost look like feathers.

The root and leaf of Ragwort are used in teas by the Cherokee Indians for heart trouble! :)

25. Fire Pink

This is the only pure red color flower I found during my wildflowers trip to Smoky mountains this spring, and voila! It’s name turns out to be “Fire Pink!”

Actually, “Pink” does not refer to the petals color, but to their shape. Each of those five petals is “pinked (notched)” at its tip.

This plant is also called “catch-fly” sometimes, because it has sticky hairs on its sepals.

I found these Fire Pink flowers in the Chestnut Top Trail.

26. Dwarf Cinquefoil

Cinquefoil means – an ornamental design of five lobes arranged in a circle.

Dwarf Cinquefoil is a low-growing plant with 5 leaves and 5 petals on the yellow blossom. These cute plants are rarely more than 4 Inches high! :)

I spotted few of these flowers at the Porters Creek Trail.

27. Purple Phacelia

Purple Phacelia is a pretty tall plant. Those lavender-blue flowers sit on top of hairy stems.When forming large patches these flowers look very attractive.

And I, fortunately encountered them in just that way, at the Chestnut Top Trail!

28. Bishop’s Cap

These surreal looking dotty flowers were blossoming on the Chestnut Top Trail too.

Bishop’s cap has dainty fringed flower petals and a single pair of opposite leaves half-way up the stalk. These flowers develop into unusual cup-like fruits with tiny black seeds inside.

Other name for these flowers is – “Mitella diphylla” . “Mitella” is Latin for cap, referring to seeds shape. “Diphylla” means two leaves.

29. Toothwort

Ancient physicians wrongly thought that the tooth-like projections on the white rhizome of this plant could cure a toothache! :)

Toothwort flowers are grown in cluster with a pair of three-parted leaves below the cluster.

These flowers were highly valued by the mountain folks in past because of the strong, radish like, peppery taste of their rhizome.

I spotted these interesting flowers in the Porters Creek Trail.


 Help me Identify!

No. 30

Now, I don’t think they are Phlox because the petals of Phlox are not so round, and possibly, they are not Geranium either, because I have very clearly identified them, see the Part II.

All you wildflowers experts out there, please let me know the name of this flowers! :)

No. 31

Every spring/summer I spot this snow-fall like beds of millions of white wildflowers at Smokies, particularly by the roadside like this, and on slopes.

I suppose they are Fringed White Phacelia. Help me if you know better! :)

No. 32

Look at them! Aren’t they gorgeous? But I have not been able to know what they are yet. If you know the name, please leave your comment in the comments section! :)


The moment of epiphany!

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary…

Epiphany
noun
(1) a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something 
(2) an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking 
(3) an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure

For me, this sudden, very simple, but stunning moment of realization happened when I was climbing down back from the picture perfect – Chestnut Top Trail.

Dusk was approaching and so was the end of my wildflowers trip to the Smoky mountains.

I had counted spotting more than 30 odd species. I was quite content, but I was casually wondering whether I would actually be able to identify each and every of these forest flowers…

Suddenly I turned around to have one more look (before I left) at the beautiful curvy trail going up on the hill. And there it all was. Hundreds of flowers. Some of them noticed and photographed by me, and many more, not.

And a thought flashed –

How does it matter…even if I know all the flower species on this whole planet? 
Just one flower in this woodland which has sprouted out of nowhere, and all by itself  – is a sheer miracle by itself.
I may not ever fathom the blossoming of even that one, single, flower…and the truth of its absolutely beautiful, unique and fragrant existence!

This was overwhelming. This was, even scary.

My childlike enthusiasm for counting wildflowers got hurt in this moment. Although I felt humbled, I felt this strange sense of helplessness too.

I passed through that tough moment of realization and came out freer, happier and filled with a little more gratitude about being a part of this grand puzzle called – Nature!

Although I am allowing my intellect to remain curious for the names of those three beautiful wildflowers that I haven’t been able to identify, but not without enjoying the utter ignorance about the mystical lives that they are! :)

– Wildflowers Information Sources –
“Wildflowers Of The Smokies” by Peter White &
Wildflowers Guide by Great Smoky Mountains Association & National Park Service

Article and Images ©2018 Gyaneshwari Dave


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2 thoughts on “32 amazing spring wildflowers I spotted at Smoky Mountains, before an overwhelming epiphany!”

    1. I am happy you could enjoy these flowers! Yes, many of them are there just for spring only…:)

And what do you think? Please leave your comments below! :)