Tennessee’s Wild About Wildflowers
As the hours of daylight gradually lengthen and spring peepers, those elfin, elusive, amphibian harbingers of spring, begin their nightly courtship chorus, our earliest wildflowers called spring ephemerals begin to appear.
The delicate beauties quickly bloom and set seed while sunlight floods the forest floor before leaves appear on deciduous trees. Other wildflowers take the stage during late spring, summer and fall, but as trees leaf out the ephemerals wilt and go dormant until they again headline nature’s show.
I must admit, left to my own devices I’m more likely to pack a tackle box than a wildflower guide. But my wife, Cathy, loves wildflowers and says organized wildflower walks let her enjoy her favorite outdoor classrooms.
Here are some of the guided wildflower hikes and pilgrimages in Tennessee’s State Parks and Natural Areas as well as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) that celebrate the return of wildflowers during March and April.
Dava Lundquist, Rock Island State Park’s Naturalist, says early spring blooming is a bit variable so free guided wildflower hikes are planned for March 9-10, 16-17, and 23-24.
On March 9, Tennessee’s State Naturalist, Randy Hedgepath guides a family-friendly hike starting at 1 p.m. on the Downstream Trail. Additionally, Dava will lead a group along Eagle Trail on March 10.
On March 16, enjoy morning hikes to Great Falls and Twin Falls as well as a book signing and family-friendly hike with Mary Priestley, author and curator of the Sewanee Herbarium at the University of the South. On March 17, join an easy/moderate guided hike along Eagle Trail to Baby Falls that begins at 11 a.m.
Dennis Horn, master gardener and author, leads a hike along the Downstream Trail that begins at 10 a.m. with a book signing to follow March 23. On March 24 you can join Dava for a hike to the mouth of Bone Cave State Natural Area. Bone Cave is currently closed to the public due to occurrence of bats with white nose syndrome (WNS) in Tennessee. For details visit http://www.tn.gov/environment/parks/RockIsland or call 931-686-2471
An early spring hike at Taylor Hollow State Natural Area in Sumner County is scheduled for March 23 to see some of the earliest wildflowers at a site known for spectacular wildflower displays. For more information email leader Roger McCoy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also on March 23, Walls of Jericho State Natural Area (about 12 miles south of Winchester) hosts a challenging eight-mile early spring hike. RSVP by March 22 to Forrest Evans at 615-532-0431 or email Forrest.Evans@tn.gov.
Fall Creek Falls State Park offers rambles and guided hikes through the park ranging from easy to strenuous during the 32nd Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage on April 6th and 7th. It’s a wildflower paradise as one proud staffer notes, “pound for pound Fall Creek Falls is as diverse as the much larger Great Smoky Mountains National Park.” Most activities are free. For schedules and details call 423-881-7267 or visit http://www.tn.gov/environment/parks/FallCreekFalls.
GSMNP’s 63rd Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage is scheduled April 23-27, 2013. The park is world-renowned and so is the five-day Wildflower Pilgrimage with its 146 walks and hikes, indoor seminars, motorcades, photography workshops and art classes.
Hikes range from easy to challenging back country trips for those with more experience and stamina. The overall focus is on wildflowers but ferns, mosses, fungi, trees, shrubs, bats, bears, birds, bugs, elk, ecology, human and natural history are featured as well.
Where do you get wild with wildflowers?