As you hike through the Smoky Mountains you will find yourself standing within a peaceful alpine meadow peppered with colorful flowers pointing their faces towards the sun. Or, you might discover a bunch of wildflowers blooming out of a fallen tree or scattered along the edges of the path. There are more than 1,600 species of flowering plants in the Smoky Mountains and at any point of the year there is some type of tree or vine blooming.
This pretty flower looks like a star, with five deeply cleft petals growing on long stalks. It is also known as “Birdseed” because birds find it particularly delicious. This flower can be eaten in salads or boiled in a similar fashion to spinach and it is high in vitamin C and A. According to Smoky Mountain hiking folklore you can use this flower to help you predict the weather – the blossoms will be spread out when the sun is shining to its fullest.
These dainty pink and white flowers grow in little clusters on a trailing shrub with woody stems, usually in dense mats hidden below the evergreen leaves and the litter on the forest floor. They have a wonderful scent that perfumes the forest air in late winter and early spring. This flower was almost destroyed in the early 20th century because it was so often picked for it’s scent. It is now protected by law in several states.
The Trout Lily
This flower gets its name from the mottled patterns on its leaves, which echo the markings on speckled trout. It is a lovely yellow flower with long and slim petals. It grows as high as 6,000 feet, so when you are hiking in the high altitudes of the Smoky Mountains you might see it. You can also spot it on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail and at Porter’s Creek between the months of March and May.
If you have been hiking in the Smoky Mountains you have probably spotted some Rhododendrons, as these are two of the most prolific plants in the mountains. There are a few variations including the Catawba Rhododendron and the Flame Azalea. They can grow up to 8-12 feet, sometimes growing as tall as a tree.
This wildflower has been compared to Dolly Parton because it is bright pink, showy and beautiful. They are charming, a little bit over the top and gaudy and everyone loves them. They bloom from April through June and sometimes into July.
These are just a few of the beautiful wildflowers you might spot while hiking in the Smoky Mountains. Which ones have you seen on your expeditions? The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has the highest diversity of plant life of anywhere in North America. Hiking through this alpine paradise gives you the chance to see many beautiful species of plants, some that are quite rare.