It’s snowing all over the Southeast today, from the Smokies to Springer Mountain. But in our office, we’re going over the final drafts of a new guidebook for spring.
After 8 years of research, field work, and documentation, Jim Parham’s Wildflower Walks & Hikes: North Carolina Mountains is nearly ready. Motivated by the multitude of wild blossoms he’s seen while hiking thousands of miles of trail in the Southern Appalachians, Parham wrote this book to help hikers find the wildflowers at their peak in their native habitats. In it he investigates and describes 13 of the most common forest types found in the North Carolina mountains, from xeric oak-pine forests to high-elevation mountain bogs. Sound complicated? With upwards of 2,600 flowering plants native to the North Carolina mountains, identifying these plant communities is a key to understanding where specific plants thrive and when they bloom.
Saxifrage, Gentian, Hanging Valleys, and Spruce Bogs
Parham tells of the High Country’s Amphibolite Mountains, home to the “significantly rare” Carolina saxifrage, and the hike at Mount Jefferson State Natural Area where you can see it. The rare and endangered fringed gentian blooms in September and October in the Buck Creek Pine Barrens near Standing Indian Recreation Area because of its magnesium-rich soil—who knew? High on the flanks of Cowee Bald is an unusual “hanging valley” known as Alarka Laurel, which is home to the southernmost spruce bog in the Appalachian chain. You can hike there, and the edge of this dense tangle of vegetation hosts a seasonal display of painted trillium in early spring—the showy plants love its acidic soil.
The book includes 59 hikes all over the North Carolina mountains and all on public land, with Jim’s signature maps and concise driving and hiking directions, plus more than 300 color photos for help with identification. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker who wants to branch into botany or a wildflower buff looking for more adventure, this guide gives you the tools to enhance your experience.
December’s fresh snow is exciting, and we’re primed for winter. But come April when we’re ready to hit the greening trails again, Jim’s book will be there to arm adventurers with what they need to search out the spring blooms—and the hikes—of their dreams.