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Some Mountain Flowers
Lens: Mostly FA 50 Macro, others Camera: K20D Photo Location: East Tennessee 
Posted By: mole, 05-23-2013, 06:57 PM

Have been exploring a number of high-country trails this spring, in search of new flowering plant records. Have enjoyed plenty of great views, plenty of spring storms, and a number of fascinating blooms. Here are a few samples.

First from our newest Wilderness Area, soon to be our newest Tennessee State Park... Rocky Fork in Unicoi County TN is amazingly diverse in every form of life, including spring wildflowers. Here's a common but lovely one, the Dwarf Crested Iris...

Had to stop to enjoy the biggest waterfall at Rocky Fork, 100 feet of falling water over on Lower Higgins Creek.

Just past the falls, on a little-used path, found a HUGE population of a rather rare (in our region) wildflower called Fringed Polygala. It's a tiny, early spring bloomer that spreads slowly, but can eventually cover a hillside. Here are some views of the typical bloom.

Fringed Polygala blooms are almost always a deep pinkish hue. But we were pleasantly surprised to find that almost 20% of the blooms at Rocky Fork were of the even rarer white variety.

Have not visited the Greene Mountain Trail in more than a year. The dry shaley soils here are perfect for one of our showy, but rather uncommon, native violets. Bird's Foot Violet is named for the deeply dissected leaves (like a bird's toes).

Dwarf Crested Iris (first photo in this thread) thrives in rich moist soils. Its close cousin, Vernal Iris, prefers the drier forests. We found several healthy plants up at Greene Mountain...

And one more unusual wildflower from Greene Mt Trail - it's called Lousewort. Such an odd name for a pretty little flower. "Wort" is old English for plant, especially useful plant. These plants were once thought to be useful to repel lice!

Next a quick trip up Buck Mountain in Carter County, to check out the blooming things around Jones Falls. This is on the Appalachian Trail, so the most common living thing observed were MANY northbound through hikers. Although Jones Falls is only 0.2 miles off the main trail, on a well-marked side path, quite a few of these through hikers told me that they did not have time to stop to view the falls!!

But we did have time to "stop and smell the flowers," including this fine patch of one of our showiest native orchids, appropriately named Showy Orchis.

It looks like an especially good year for Painted Trilliums up on Buck Mountain. Not a long blooming season for these plants, but certainly worth the trip to check them out.

Next on our "whirlwind tour" of high country flowers is Flint Rock on Holston Mountain. A great place for views of the fresh spring green...

This is also a great place for one of my favorite spring orchids - Pink Lady's Slipper. Despite a recent fire on parts of Flint Rock, these "moccasin flowers" are thriving. They were not quite at full pink of bloom that day, but almost every plant had a bloom, or was about to bloom.

One of the (many) fun things about hiking the high country in the spring is that it is sort of like a "time machine." Plants that had bloomed many weeks ago down in the low country are just beginning to flower in the higher places. For example, Wood Anemones are long past bloom back at the home park, but not quite in full bloom up near Flint Rock.

Another advantage of high-country botanizing is that you can get a different perspective on the flowers. Frasier's Magnolia flowers are high in the trees - it usually takes binoculars to enjoy them! But this tree was down off the bluff, and so we could enjoy a close view of the big creamy blooms.

Our last mountain-top floral hike will be at Pond Mountain. It's another designated wilderness area, also along the Appalachian Trail. There's a great little side trail to some fine views of the wilderness area, off of Potato Top. Once again, it was hard to encourage the through-hikers to pause. Hope you enjoy the view!

But it didn't take any off-trail hiking to view the wildflower of the day at Pond Mountain. We have a number of native Rhododendrons and Azaleas (both groups are in the same Genus) here in East Tennessee. Roan Mt is famous for its displays of Flame Azalea and Catawba Rhododendron. Pink Azaleas are scattered in the lower river bluff habitats. And many of our mountains are home for the nearly-white Rosebay Rhododendron. But there's another Rhododendron that is almost azalea-like in its delicate beauty. Piedmont Rhododendron (Rhododendron minus) is smaller than its cousins, and has smaller, less abundant bloom. But it sure does decorate the cool hollows along Pond Mountain!

Will close for now with the main attraction of Pond Mountain. It's called Laurel Falls, or Laurel Fork Falls. Our very wet spring made it especially full-flowing this time.

Hope you enjoyed the mountain-hopping hikes - and that you will share your comments & critique!

Last edited by mole; 05-23-2013 at 06:58 PM. Reason: (chose wrong category - oops!)
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05-23-2013, 08:38 PM   #2

Join Date: Jun 2009
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Wow! - some REALLY nice shots here - almost a "Visit Tennessee" brochure for those of us not particularly interested in Dollywood or Elvis.
Very nice.
Thanks for sharing.
05-24-2013, 03:00 AM   #3
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Fantastic Mole. Great photos and commentary. David
05-24-2013, 03:23 AM   #4
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A beautiful walk in the woods! Thanks for taking us along!

05-24-2013, 06:02 AM   #5
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Beautiful shots. Well done water falls and flowers in this set. Thanks for sharing.
05-24-2013, 07:38 AM   #6
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I was hoping to see some more of your wildflowers. These are beautiful with some wonderful waterfall shots thrown in to boot. Been a long time since I have seen the polygala and TFS those. They are so delicately beautiful.
05-24-2013, 07:52 PM   #7
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Original Poster
JFord - Indeed there is much to see & enjoy here in Tennessee - hope you can visit sometime!

David - Glad you enjoyed the images & the words!

Julie - Thanks for "joining" the hikes!

Tim - Thanks so much!

Susan - We are blessed with several species of Polygala here in East Tennessee, but these (Polygala paucifolia) are my favorites. You'll have to come visit next spring - I'll be glad to tell you how to get to several good populations of them.
05-24-2013, 08:46 PM   #8
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Amazing series. Loved the shots of falls.

05-25-2013, 08:47 AM   #9
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extrodinary series, enjoyed them all .... your wild flower shots are just superb ! come to think of it so are your water falls
05-25-2013, 09:23 AM   #10
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Lovely captures! Love the colors of the flowers!
05-25-2013, 12:13 PM   #11
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As always, Mole, you show the "glamorous" part of your job. Wonderful, absolutely wonderful!

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