Schoolhouse Gap Trail: A Wildflower Hike in the Great Smoky Mountains

So guess where we’ve been? Eastern Tennessee, that’s where, visiting friends. They picked us up at the Knoxville airport and whisked us off to the Great Smoky National Park, primarily so that we could enjoy the abundant wildflowers that bloom there at this time of year.

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Our first day there we hiked the Schoolhouse Gap Trail. It’s a 4 mile wooded trail rated “easy”, but I will say that “easy” is in the eyes (or rather the knees) of the individual hiker.

 

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Right away we started seeing flowers. Here are some Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron strigosus).

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The fresh green of new leaves were lively contrast to the somber trunks of the tallest trees.

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We found several patches of Crested Iris (Iris cristata). I’ve tried to grow this delicate flower in our own garden but without success. I think it needs quite specific woodland conditions and cannot tolerate much competition.

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The Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) were past their peak, but here and there you could still find multitudes of white flowers in the understory.

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Much of the trail followed a fast-flowing stream. On the streambank we saw our first Yellow Trillium (Trillium luteum).

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Then we realized that this species of Trillium was quite abundant along the trail.

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Another Trillium species new to me was Catesby’s Trillium (Trillium catesbaei). It has slightly nodding flowers in white or pink.

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Here’s another one.

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Another view of the woods. All the leaves seem to impart a greeenish tinge to the air itself.

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This is another new one to me: Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera). What I thought at first were spots on the petals are actually round black anthers.

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So I hope this picture doesn’t gross out anyone. People ride horses on this trail, which these Black Swallowtails think is a very good thing. Actually, we saw lots of butterflies on this trail and in the park generally – especially Swallowtails.

We saw lots of flowers that I’m not showing in this post, especially a variety of Violets, Wild Blue Phlox, (Phlox divaritica), etc. Just believe me when I say there were lots of wildflowers.

When we headed back I realized that the trail was a lot more steep than it initially seemed. My knees protested the way down a lot more than the way up.

There’s more to come from our trip to Tennessee. Have you gone on any good wildflower walks recently?

33 Comments on “Schoolhouse Gap Trail: A Wildflower Hike in the Great Smoky Mountains”

  1. Four miles is a long hike when you are going up and down. Seeing all of those wildflowers was worth it. A beautiful area. I just returned from a long weekend in Knoxville. It is a beautiful area.

  2. Jason … this post is GORGEOUS ! .. it is like breathing Spring air in as you see these wonderful pictures .. a sight for sore eyes here in our almost barren brown that is slowly changing over to green and perky dare I say ? LOL
    YES ! .. I am always grateful to be Canadian ( my dad’s family came from Scotland in the late 1700’s with their love of Nova Scotia) .. hey .. try not to be discouraged, there is light at the end of the tunnel .. this period in your country’s history will reflect the most important lesson ever learned .. how delicate and fragile democracy is ..it will be a long time before anyone takes it for granted once this mess is over for you all .. take heart ! .. and sure ! .. claim being part Canadian, I’ll vouch for you all ? LOL

  3. It’s nice to see so many natives flourishing as they always have. Here the deer do a number on them…
    I keep thinking I need to get out to a state park where summer visits have shown many promising leaves. Maybe this will be the post which inspires me to finally go!

  4. What an amazing wood Jason. I should have been so excited to see these trilliums growing wild and the lovely iris. And what gorgeous butterflies. I am looking forward to seeing some more. Yes I have been on some wonderful wild flower walks in Italy last week. Post coming shortly.

  5. The flowers are wonderful, and all of those new leaves are wonderful. I was most interested in your comment about them making the very air seem green. I went on a little walk at our Sandylands sanctuary a couple of weeks ago. It’s mixed forest with a lot of pine, but I had the same impression. When I was in the depths of it all taking some photos, it really did seem as though the air had a green tinge to it. I suppose it’s a trick of the light, which I can’t explain. But I do appreciate it!

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