Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Not Sure When, but Spring WILL Come!--65th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage

Dwarf Crested Iris
As I look out at the snow in my yard and see a daunting forecast of even more snow to come tonight and tomorrow, I must remind myself that yes, Spring WILL Come--eventually! When I think about Spring in the Great Smoky Mountains, I always think about the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, a yearly event celebrating the flora and fauna of this special place. Buried underneath this week's (and last week's too) snow are the roots of the ephemerals which lay in wait of brighter sun and warmer temperatures before peaking their tiny heads out to shine for us.

Sweet White Trillium
I attended my first Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage probably 15 years or so ago with my daughter who would have been about 8 years old then. We enjoyed a guided hike to White Oak Sinks while it was in full bloom, and that set in motion the beginnings of a love and passion shared between mother and daughter which we've enjoyed almost every year since. Work and school schedules interfere most years now with us participating in the pilgrimage itself, but almost without fail, we make it into the mountains bearing camera equipment and wildflower identification books, stopping to appreciate these often tiny blossoms that many of the Park's visitors never stop to notice at all.

Pink Lady's Slipper
I will always be thankful that in the years when we had the opportunity we took advantage of the many programs offered by the event. This year's 65th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage takes place April 21-25 and offers walks, talks, and workshops on birding, bears, salamanders, natural history, ferns, mosses, photography, sketching, and of course wildflowers. Online registration is going on now at the above link, but on-site registration will also be available during the event.

Trout Lily

You do not have to attend the pilgrimage in order to enjoy the wildflowers though. Beginning usually mid to late March, wildflowers will most-assuredly make their appearance.  Here are some wonderful trails and reference books for you to check out if you want to simply explore on your own:

My Favorite Wildflower Trails:

  • Chestnut Top Trail
  • Porter's Creek Trail
  • Cove Mountain Hardwood Trail (at Chimney's Picnic Area)
  • Bud Ogle Nature Trail
  • White Oak Sinks (not really ON a trail, but easy to find)
  • almost any trail in the Smokies has some wildflowers on it

My Favorite Wildflower Reference Books:

Great Smoky Mountains Wildflowers is organized by the season or time you will find the flowers in our mountains. So, from front to back, you can see the progression of the bloom that will take place in the Smokies from early spring to fall. This book provides pictures and descriptions as well as locations where you can expect to find particular flowers and the approximate dates of their appearance.

 Wildflowers of the Smokies is organized by bloom color, so if you are looking at a flower and are unsure of its identity, you simply look in the pages which carry the appropriate bloom color tab until you find the one that matches what you are seeing.

I carry both of these books with me when I go looking for wildflowers. Each is useful in its own way and not all flowers you will find on the trails are in either book. The diversity which we enjoy in the Smokies is just too vast to be housed in any volume small enough to carry on the trails.

Happy wildflowering (or for now simply dreaming of wildflowering!) Just remember, Spring WILL Come! And when it does, you'll find me enjoying the ephemeral beauty of the tiny jewels in which Nature clothes the Smokies.

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