Guess what’s happening?? Wildflowers are blooming!!!

And is there anything more hopeful than a spring wildflower?! So far we have spotted several downy yellow violets and sharp lobed hepaticas lining the trail. These spring harbingers bring a smile to our face and give us assurance of more light, more warmth, and more life.

You can find signs of wildflowers in the Appalachians year-round. Recently, in the dead of winter, we spotted the leaves of putty root orchid and cranefly orchid. These two native orchids grow a single leaf in winter which then disappears in the spring before a single stalk with flowering blooms arises from the ground in the late spring and summer. Brightly colored fall wildflowers such as purple ironweed and yellow ragweed complement the changing leaves as they fall from the trees in October.

Our favorite wildflower season is in the spring. This is when we have the greatest variety of native flowers lining the trail. A large group of the spring blooms are known as ephemeral wildflowers, meaning they only last a very short period – usually two weeks or less. These flowers are brought to light when the sun and its warmth hit the forest floor in early spring. As the leaves bud out on the trees and block the light, these flowers fade and decompose back into the soil.

Sometimes it seems as if there is pressure to try to see as many ephemeral wildflowers as possible each year or a sadness that they don’t last longer. But more and more, I try to just be grateful and joyful with each opportunity to spot and identify one of these temporary blooms.

Life is a total roller-coaster and filled with constant ups and downs. When it’s up… sometimes I am so aware and fearful of the inevitable down that I forget to appreciate the present. Ephemeral wildflowers remind me to be in the present and enjoy the beauty and magic that sometimes surrounds us without worrying too much about the future. Because the more we enjoy and appreciate the up parts of life, the better we are able to navigate the downward slides and deep valleys.

We hope you get out this spring and appreciate the ephemeral beauty that will fill the Southern Appalachians. The best time to search for these temporary treasures is between mid-March and mid-April, depending on the elevation and microclimate. Our guide and Southern Appalachian Naturalist, Leah LaRocco, is available for private wildflower hikes in the Smokies the last two weekends of April. If you want to book her for a trip, click here for more info.

And if you need a good book to ID our local blooms, we recommend “Wildflowers of the Smokies.” You can also use your field guide to start a Nature Journal which can help you learn and record the flowers that you find. Regardless of how you get out and enjoy these fleeting flowers, we hope that they help you embrace the beauty of the moment.