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.
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.
Right away we started seeing flowers. Here are some Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron strigosus).
The fresh green of new leaves were lively contrast to the somber trunks of the tallest trees.
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.
The Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) were past their peak, but here and there you could still find multitudes of white flowers in the understory.
Much of the trail followed a fast-flowing stream. On the streambank we saw our first Yellow Trillium (Trillium luteum).
Then we realized that this species of Trillium was quite abundant along the trail.
Another Trillium species new to me was Catesby’s Trillium (Trillium catesbaei). It has slightly nodding flowers in white or pink.
Here’s another one.
Another view of the woods. All the leaves seem to impart a greeenish tinge to the air itself.
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.
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?