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Trout Lily

Wildflower Viewing in the Southern Appalachians: Spring Ephemerals

We may have had snow just a week or two ago, but the first spring wildflowers are beginning to show their fresh faces on the forest floor here in the Smokies and elsewhere across the Southern Appalachians. Don’t miss the opportunity to see these delicate plants that show themselves only at this time of year.

The first to appear are the spring ephemerals, which thrive in the warmer days and cool nights before leaves appear on the trees. These include hepatica and trout lily, both of which grow tight to the ground, pushing up through the rich leaf litter to catch every bit of warmth and sunlight. Ephemeral means “lasting only a short time,” so if you want to see them, don’t delay getting out onto the trail.

One of our favorite early native flowers that blooms higher above the ground is serviceberry, a traditional Southern Appalachian harbinger of spring. When you see the small, delicately ragged, faintly pink blossoms of the shadbush (serviceberry’s other name) seeming to float among the bare branches, you know Easter is not far off.

Any of the Milestone Press hiking guidebooks will take you to where you can see wildflowers at least three seasons of the year. Some excellent, easy-access trail destinations for viewing ephemerals: Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, the Appalachian Trail, and walks with trailheads along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Planning a hike for later in the spring? Check out the Great Smoky Mountains Wildflower Bloom Calendar.

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