Notes from a plant nerd: A jewel among wildflowers

Among my favorite plants to teach to children is jewelweed (Impatiens capensis & I. pallida).

Trilliums, Trilliums, Trilliums

Trilliums are some of the most beautiful and iconic wildflowers in the world, and the Southern Appalachian Mountains are a filled with many different trillium species. Wake-robins, toadshades, bashful trilliums, large white trilliums, painted trilliums, and so many more. There are trilliums with white flowers, red flowers, maroon, yellow and pink flowers. Even some trilliums with variegated patterns on their petals, or variegation or mottling on their leaves. 

Group size limited at Whiteoak Sink during wildflower season

During the wildflower season at Whiteoak Sink in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which extends through Sunday, May 7, visitors will be limited to groups of eight or fewer people.

It’s in our blood

Each spring I am struck by the beauty and encouraged by the support given by bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) as it emerges and begins its process of opening the flower and unfurling the leaf. The flower bud and leaf come up together, poking through the duff of last year’s tree leaves blanketing the forest floor. Before opening, the flower looks like an egg on the end of a long skinny stalk. This top-heavy flower might just flop over, were it not for the leaf wrapped around the stem, like a helping hand holding the flower for us to see.

Notes from a plant nerd: Worts and All

Among the duff of last year’s fallen leaves lie many interesting and beautiful shapes to catch your eye on a winter’s walk in the woods. From the mosses and orchid leaves described in previous columns, to newly emerging plants preparing for spring’s full flush, there are many forms and patterns on the winter forest’s floor.

Notes from a plant nerd: Ad astera! To the stars! (Asters Part 2)

Very soon, my guided wildflower walks will mostly consist of me walking along a trail and saying, “That’s an aster, that’s a goldenrod. There’s another aster. And this is a different goldenrod.” 

Notes from a plant nerd: There’s goldenrod on them there hills

Goldenrods (Solidago spp.) are among the most widespread, beautiful and important wildflowers in all of Southern Appalachia. There is almost nothing more beautiful than a field of goldenrod in bloom, with a crisp, blue, autumn sky as backdrop. And often they are growing with ironweed (Vernonia spp.) and Asters (Symphiotrichum spp.), creating that beautiful purple and gold color combination that dominates late summer wildflowers.

Notes from a plant nerd: Aster Family Plants, the Stars of Summer!

Often, when I am giving my introductory talk on the guided wildflower walks I lead, I invite people to play the “What’s That Plant?” game. This is one of my favorite games to play, and the rules are simple. As we are walking along, if anyone notices a plant or flower that I haven’t seen or taught about yet, they can ask, “Hey Adam, what’s this plant?”

Notes from a plant nerd: A little beauty on an early spring day

One of my favorite things in the world to do is walk people into a field of wildflowers that they haven’t seen yet, point one out and then watch as they realize that those flowers are also blooming all around them. It’s not their fault that they didn’t see them at first. Often, until we are shown something, we don’t see it. Once we are shown it, it is difficult to not see it. 

The first truly showy woodland flower

Editor’s note: This column first appeared in The Smoky Mountain News in May 2005.

Hepatica doesn’t display the earliest flowers that bloom each year. Those of bitter cress, henbit, purple dead nettle, bird’s-eye speedwell, and others appear in open moist sunny spots by late January or early February. But to my way of thinking, year in and year out, hepatica is the earliest of the truly showy woodland wildflowers. Trailing arbutus has a reputation in this regard. One often reads of those who discover it blooming under late snows. But I hardly ever observe arbutus doing much more than budding before April. Hepatica can still be found in bloom in early May in the higher elevation hardwood forests.     

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