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Spring in the Plott Balsams April 14, 2015

Posted by Jenny in hiking, nature, Southern Appalachians.
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Fisher Creek, gateway to my favorite backyard mountains.

Fisher Creek, gateway to my favorite part of the Plotts.

Just to the southeast of the Smokies lie the Plott Balsams, my backyard mountains. The Plotts rival their more famous neighbors for the profusion of spring wildflowers. You’ll even find some plants here that you don’t see in the Smokies. For instance:

Larkspur (Delphinium).

Larkspur (Delphinium).

On a showery afternoon, I headed up the East Fork trail. Soon I met a fellow creature who was also heading up the trail. I felt speedy by comparison.

What beautiful patterns and colors!

What beautiful patterns and colors!

As I usually do, I went straight to the top without taking many pictures. It was completely socked in and spitting drizzle at the Fox Hunters Camp, my frequent destination for a good steep 2000′ climb. Up in the clouds, I moved through the temperate rainforest.

Everything is upholstered in moss.

Everything is upholstered in moss.

On the way back down, I spotted a cluster of mixed white and red trilliums beside a little streamlet.

Just starting to open---in two different colors.

Just starting to open—in two different colors.

I always notice this small cascade, which runs beneath a curved treetrunk.

I always notice this small cascade, which runs beside a curved treetrunk.

Halberd-leaved yellow violet. One of the few violets that I can identify.

Halberd-leaved yellow violet. One of the few violets that I can identify.

Trillium grandiflorum. You can also call it Great White Trillium, but somehow I like the Latin better.

Trillium grandiflorum. You can also call it Great White Trillium, but somehow I like the Latin better.

Trilliums and toothwort.

Trillium and toothwort.

I have a weakness for unfurling ferns.

I have a weakness for unfurling ferns.

Chickweed.

Chickweed.

Showy orchis.

Showy orchis.

A whole flock of large-flowered bellwort.

A whole flock of large-flowered bellwort.

And near the end of my short hike, I saw this splendidly cheerful blossom.

Fleabane (Erigeron)---I think!

Fleabane (Erigeron)—I think!

Yellow lady slippers and other yellow things May 20, 2013

Posted by Jenny in nature, photography, plants, Southern Appalachians.
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The closer you look, the more mysterious.

The closer you look, the more mysterious.

Click twice for full zoom on any photo.

Lady slippers—lovely, bizarre, delicate, bold, faintly tropical, somehow sexual. A plant of contradictions.

I’ve seen pink lady slippers every spring, whether up in New England or in the southern Appalachians. I hadn’t seen the yellow ones for years. I never made a special pilgrimage to find them in places they’re known to live, like White Oak Sinks. I just kept taking my walks in the spring, knowing I’d see them sooner or later. I found two clumps of them today in the Plott Balsams.

“The conspicuous slipperlike pouch formed by the lower petal is a trap for capturing bees, which are released only after being coated with pollen. American Indians used the roots of these plants, as did 19th century physicians, for many types of nervous ailments such as hysteria, insomnia, and premenstrual syndrome.” —Appalachian Wildflowers, Thomas E. Hemmerly.

A pair of slippers.

A pair of slippers.

Both of the clumps I saw had three blossoms.

Both of the clumps I saw had three blossoms.

I enjoyed the color yellow in other things I saw today.

Blue and yellow (bluets and cinquefoil).

Blue and yellow (bluets and cinquefoil).

Yellow with orange centers (roundleaf ragwort).

Yellow with orange centers (roundleaf ragwort).

Pale purple with yellow centers (fleabane).

Pale purple with yellow centers (fleabane).

Yellow and brown (lousewort).

Yellow and brown (lousewort).

Yellow surrounded by green (golden alexander).

Yellow surrounded by green (golden alexander).

Purple and yellow (golden alexander and geraniums).

Purple and yellow (golden alexander and geraniums).

Blue and yellow, signifying purple and gold (we are in Western Carolina University territory).

Blue and yellow trail blaze, signifying purple and gold (we are in Western Carolina University territory).

Pink (wild azalea).

Pink (wild azalea).

Transparent (Fisher Creek).

Transparent (Fisher Creek).