Walk on the Wild(flower) Side
Mother Nature gives me thousands of reasons to enjoy springtime in East Tennessee. Blooming trees and wildflowers clothe woodlands and meadows with beauty. “I like to think of wildflowers as little friends that I enjoy seeing each year. It is like a treasure hunt to look for these little ephemeral jewels,” says naturalist Kris Light of Oak Ridge. “Not only can wildflowers be enjoyed, but also butterflies, birds, salamanders and other creatures that inhabit the woods.”
Kris provides a useful map for wildflower treasure hunts on her website www.EastTennesseeWildflowers.com. It features more than 719 different wildflowers from East Tennessee listed by season, where they bloom (woodland or roadside) and color. She will lead a wildflower hike at 2 p.m. April 14 at Frozen Head State Park.
Her hike is one of many offered to the public in the springtime. A long-time favorite is the wildflower walk sponsored by Smoky Mountain Field School. Joel and Kathy Zachry will lead a small group in search of trillium, bluet, jack-in-the-pulpit, and a host of other blooms.
“Wildflowers are wonderful to see and learn about; but, really, wildflower hikes are a great excuse to get outdoors and visit with family and friends and share this time together,” says Joel. Registration for this hike on April 14 is through Smoky Mountain Field School. www.smfs.utk.edu. As a bonus, Joel and Kathy throw in a history lesson about Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “These hikes are also a good time to try out all your new digital camera equipment,” says Joel. A SMFS course, Spring Wildflower and Nature Photography, led by Kendall Chiles, will take place April 21.
Gatlinburg will host the Great Smoky Mountain Association’s Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage April 25-29. The pilgrimage offers 150 programs including guided walks and guest lecturers.
Guides at the Johnson City’s Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site will conduct wildflower walks on March 31. The special event will include a plant sale and bird watching excursions.
Opportunities for wildflower hikes span across East Tennessee at the state parks. Be sure to check times and weather conditions before you go. Here are a few to enjoy:
- March 23: Cordell Hull Birthplace State Park
- March 24-25: Rock Island State Park
- March 31: Norris Dam State Park
- March 31-April 1: Rock Island State Park
- April 7: Norris Dam State Park
- April 13-14: Standing Stone State Park — Naturalist Rally
- April 14-15: Fall Creek Falls State Park — Wildflower Pilgrimage
- April 14-15: Frozen Head State Park — Wildflower Pilgrimage
- April 20-22: Warriors’ Path State Park — Spring Nature Festival
- April 20-22: South Cumberland State Park — Trails and Trilliums Celebration
- April 21-22: Frozen Head State Park — Wildflower Pilgrimage
- May 4-6: Roan Mountain State Park — Naturalist Rally
- May 5: Cumberland Mountain State Park — Wildflower Photography Workshop
- May 21-27: Edgar Evins State Park — Wildflower Week
Let me hear from you if you know of any wildflower hikes in your community because these activities are fun to share.