What Wildflowers are in Bloom on the Appalachian Trail
Spring is a wonderful time to be on the Appalachian Trail. The thru-hikers are full of excitement and energy, the day hikers are stretching their legs after a long winter, and the animals are all coming out of hibernation and ready to frolic on the trails.
Plus, it’s beautiful! The Appalachian Trail is teeming with new life, especially in the form of wildflowers. And, if you think about it, the blooming wildflowers happen to coincide perfectly with the
slow-moving tired appreciative thru-hikers. As they’re trudging up mountains looking forlornly at the ground, waiting to get their trail legs, these are some of the flowers they can admire.
Bloodroot’s name comes from the red or orange sap that flows freely whenever its stem or root is cut or broken. These earliest inhabitants of North America used the sap as an insect repellent, a treatment for rheumatism and ringworm, and a dye for clothing, baskets, and facial paint.
By far one of the most enjoyable flowers to come across while hiking, the fragrant Dutchman’s-breeches favors the AT’s rocky hillsides (usually the north slope), rich woods, and streambanks. Its perfume and unique shape are natural attractants to bumblebees and honeybees.
True to their name, spring beauties are some of the first flowers to emerge as the weather gets just a bit warmer from the cold of winter. These pinkish- white flowers sometimes line the AT in such great quantities that they appear to be patches of slowly melting snow.
One of the brightest and most conspicuous wildflowers found blooming in the Appalachian Mountains, the fire pink is also one of the longer lasting flowers, blooming from sometime in April well into June. The pink in the name refers not to the color of the flower, but rather to the notch at the end of each petal; the notch looks like the ragged or serrated edge of sewing material cut by pinking shears.
Though northbound AT thru-hikers become acquainted with the tiny bluet as it lines the trail in large mats along the North Carolina–Tennessee border, the flower grows well throughout the length of the AT. The flowers, with their delicately upturned petals, reflect the cleanliness and clarity of an unclouded sky.
One of the earliest flowers to emerge from the ground to begin the annual floral season is skunk cabbage. If you want to find out how this unique-looking plant—which grows in moist woods and meadows— received its name, just rub it a bit and bring your hand up to your nose. Though American Indians inhaled the aroma as a cure for headaches, once you take a sniff, you probably won’t want to do so again!
If you want to learn more about the flowers that dot the AT, check out our book, Wildflowers of the Appalachian Trail by Leonard Adkins.