Category Archives: Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Smoky Mountain Iris

dwarf crested iris 2 2018.jpg

I thought I might share another image from my recent trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This time we will meet the Dwarf Crested Iris another one my favorite wildflowers that grace the mountains of Tennessee.

Because of how lazy I can be I will just give you the info that I pulled off of Wikipedia it’s so much easier lol !!!

Iris cristata (also known as dwarf crested iris and crested iris) is a species in the genus Iris, it is also in the subgenus of Limniris. It is a rhizomatous perennial plant, endemic to the eastern United States. It has pale lavender flowers with a white patch and orange or yellow crest. It is a close relative to Iris lacustris (Dwarf lake iris), the only other crested iris native to North America. It is cultivated as an ornamental plant in temperate regions.

It has slender, greenish, or whitish yellow rhizomes. They are shallow rooted. They spread by sending out long stolons from multiple branches. They can have up to 2-8 cord-like branches.[12] The branches can be 20–30 cm (8–12 in) long and 1-2mm wide. Under the rhizomes are fleshy-like roots. The branches are brown. The creeping habit can create large masses of plants over time.

It has 6-8 basal leaves, which are divided onto 2-3 proximal (close to centre) leaves and 4-5 distal (away from centre) leaves. The proximal leaves are falcate (sickle-shaped), light brown with a darker brown central mid-rib, and the distal leaves are ensiform (sword-like), green or yellowish green, with a few visible veins. They can grow up to between 7.5–15 cm (3–6 in) long and 1-2.5 cm wide. They elongate after flowering, growing up to 15–40 cm (6–16 in) long. The elongated leaves hide any seed pods produced later.

It has short stems, (almost stemless), growing up to between 2.5–4.5 cm (1–2 in) tall. The pedicel or stem, is the same length to the ovary.

It has an overall height with stem and flower reaching 7–10 cm (3–4 in) tall.

It has 2-3 cauline (on the stem), spathes (leaves of the flower bud), which are green, falcate (sickle-shaped) slightly inflated, unequal (outer leaves are shorter than the inner leaves) and 2–6 cm (1–2 in) long.

The spathes bear 1 or 2 flowers, in Spring, or early Summer, between April to May. They only flower for a short time.

The fragrant, flowers are 3–5 cm (1–2 in) in diameter, and come in shades of blue, from lavender, to lilac,to pale blue, and purple. There are occasionally white forms, and very rarely pink forms.

It has 2 pairs of petals, 3 large sepals (outer petals), known as the ‘falls’ and 3 inner, smaller petals (or tepals, known as the ‘standards’. The spreading falls are 3–6 cm (1–2 in) long and 1.5-2.5 cm wide. They have a central white signal patch, which is surrounded by a purple (or dark blue,[35]) ring, with 3 parallel orange or yellow crests (or ridges). The fall tapers towards the claw (close to the stem). The standards are erect,[26] oblanceolate and 3–4 cm (1–2 in) long and 1–2 cm wide (narrower and shorter than the falls).

It has a filiform (thread-like), perianth tube that is 4–8 cm (2–3 in) long. This large flower tube lifts the flower above ground level.

It has a triangular, 0.6–1 cm long ovary, an oblong stigma (half the size of the falls, and 1.5 cm long, triangular crested, style branch.

After the iris has flowered, it produces an ovoid seed capsule. The capsule is 1–2 cm long, with ridged angles and triangular in cross-section. Inside the capsule, are ellipsoid, yellowish-brown seeds that are 3.2–3.5 mm across and have a white appendage that spirally wraps around the seed.

It is pronounced as (Iris) EYE-ris (cristata) kris-TAH-tah.

It has common names of dwarf crested iris,[34][40][41] or crested iris, and lady’s calamus.

It is known as krypiris in Swedish.

The Latin specific epithet cristata is derived from ‘crista’ meaning crested or with tassel-like tips. This refers to the golden yellow crest on the sepal of the iris.

In the 1750s, the American Quaker botanist, John Bartram (1699-1777) introduced Iris crisatata to England via his correspondence friend, Mr Peter Collinson. He had sent several specimen plants across the Atlantic to him. It has been in European culture in since 1766.

It was first published and described by William Aiton in Hortus Kewensis (Hort. Kew.) Volume 1, page70 in 1789.

It was later published in Botanical Magazine (t412) in 1798, then in ‘Addisonia’ Volume 9, Issue 4 on page 63 in December 1924 with a coloured illustration,[36] as well as in the ‘Journal of the RHS’ Volume 88 in 1963.

It was verified by United States Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Research Service on 11 April 2000, then updated on 1 December 2004.

Iris cristata is an accepted name by the RHS.

It is found in North eastern U.S.A., within the states of Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

In North-Central U.S.A., within the states of Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

In South eastern U.S.A., within the states of Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Georgia,

The range is south of where the Wisconsinan glaciation spread about 11,000 years ago.

Habitat
It grows in calcareous soils, in oak woodlands (or forests), on rocky hillsides, in ravines, on mountain ledges (and bluffs), and along streams.

Wow was that a mouthful !!!! Ok I will stop here enjoy the pic and I hope you didn’t read all of that info !!

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Great Smoky Mountain Wildflowers

painted trillium 1 2018.jpg

Since the wildflower season has been so poor here in the Madison Indiana area I decided to head south to the mecca of wildflowers….The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A good decision that turned out to be the weather was perfect and the flowers were blooming all over the park. I could post hundreds of images but I thought I would just stick to a view of my favorites with a little info about the flower.

One of the flowers that I really wanted to capture on my trip was the Painted Trillium. From a short description from Wikipedia…

Trillium undulatum, the painted trillium is a wildflower of the genus trillium found from Ontario in the north to northern Georgia in the south and from Michigan in the west to Nova Scotia in the east. It is also known as painted lady or trille ondulé. It demands strongly acidic, humus-rich soils and tends to be found in the shade of acid-loving trees such as eastern white pine, red maple, red spruce and balsam fir. Although the soils that support it have low base saturation, this species was found to have relatively high levels of calcium, magnesium, and especially potassium in its foliage

I was able to capture quite a few images of this beautiful trillium and found over two hundred plants not ready to bloom but within a few years should make for a beautiful site.

Thanks for taking a look.

A Grateful Return

Been nearly one year since I posted anything to this site and a lot of that is due to a busy lifestyle, job, plain laziness but probably the best excuse was a heart attack and open heart surgery that I experienced on March the 27th. Yep I had the big one and followed it up with open heart surgery, it was the last thing that I ever expected to happen but happen it did. I really don’t want to get to deep into it the doctors already did that for me , but I have been given a great prognosis and I am continuing on with life with a few behavior modifications. I am very thankful for all the support from my family and friends and the great work by all the doctors and hospitals that put me back together again. So now on to something a little more to my liking and that is sharing some of my work with everyone, I don’t even know where to begin I have captured so many images in the last year but I guess I will just start posting some my favorites and go from there !! One from last fall at Clifty Falls State Park here in Madison Indiana, was a beautiful morning with all the sunbeams streaking down thru the fog that made for a surreal scene.

                                                                    clifty sunburst fall 2 2014                     

Luna Moth | Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Wildflowers aren’t they only thing I get to photograph, here is an example of a wonderful Luna Moth that I came across on a recent trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I found this wonderful subject laying on a boulder getting ready to take flight, and for what seemed like an eternity this beautiful flying flower stayed in this one position and let me capture some really incredible images of it !!

I was really blessed to find such a beautiful and majestic creature, most specimens of moths that I come across seemed to be severely battered, but this beauty was in all it’s glory and I was so thankful for such an experience. Thanks for stopping by and taking a look, hope you enjoy the image !!

 

 

luna moth great smoky mountain national park 2014

 

Synchronous Fireflies | Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In early June I was able to attend an event I have been hoping to see for quite some time, and that is the Synchronous Fireflies of the Great Smoky Mountains. Synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) are one of at least 19 species of fireflies that live in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are the only species in America whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns.
Fireflies (also called lightning bugs) are beetles. They take from one to two years to mature from larvae, but will live as adults for only about 21 days. While in the larval stage, the insects feed on snails and smaller insects. Once they transform into their adult form, they do not eat.

Their light patterns are part of their mating display. Each species of firefly has a characteristic flash pattern that helps its male and female individuals recognize each other.  Most species produce a greenish-yellow light; one species has a bluish light.  The males fly and flash and the usually stationary females respond with a flash. Peak flashing for synchronous fireflies in the park is normally within a two-week period in late May to mid-June.

No one is sure why the fireflies flash synchronously. Competition between males may be one reason: they all want to be the first to flash. Or perhaps if the males all flash together they have a better chance of being noticed, and the females can make better comparisons.

The fireflies do not always flash in unison. They may flash in waves across hillsides, and at other times will flash randomly. Synchrony occurs in short bursts that end with abrupt periods of darkness.

Here is a pic from the Firefly Event,  the pic doesn’t do it justice. This is truly an event that must be witnessed, even after a few days I still couldn’t convey the words on exactly what happened !!

The lights from the fireflies moved in waves up and down Elkmont Valley where we positioned ourselves, the pattern seemed to start far from us and be in strips of thousands of lights and would then stream across the bottom right toward us and then stop at our feet.

Then continuing on across the road at our backs towards the other side of the valley floor. There would be burst of 5 flashes quickly then it would stop for 10 seconds or so and then repeat in an almost frenzied fashion !!

The human reaction was incredible, when we first arrived hundreds of people were packed along the old roadbed that runs along the valley floor, many with lawn chairs and blankets making you think you were attending a fireworks show.

At first as the light faded you could feel the crowd growing impatient, people were laughing and talking and when one little firefly would appear they would remark is that it…I even began to wonder myself !!

The Park Rangers assured us to be patient and wait for the show, When it started the crowd was amazing, people at fireworks display usually oh and ah thru the whole event, but here there was an incredible silence as if the fear of your voice would scare them off and they would stop the beautiful display they were sharing with us.

Many in the crowd were brought to tears, including my wife, they were overwhelmed with such joy and amazement that the emotion displayed was almost as cool as the fireflies !!

Ok after this way too long post here is the pic, like I said before they are not that good and they don’t really represent what I witnessed but it is something I will have forever to help me remember that warm wonderful summer evening !!

fireflys 2 2014


Porter’s Creek Trail| Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Here are a few more images from another great trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Porter’s Creek might be my favorite trail for wildflowers and that’s because of one small little flower and that’s the White Fringed Phacelia, or should I say millions of them !!

Walking this trail starts out with a nice gentle trail that has many of the different flowers that grace the park, but after traveling up the trail for a mile you cross over a very entertaining log bridge and then walk into a different world. All across the floor of the gorge and up the side of the mountain are millions upon millions of these little flowers, it actually looks like you had just experienced a snow fall.

It seems like it is right out of the Lord of the Rings or some other fantasy movie, it is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.  The actual bloom is about the size of a nickel which isn’t the largest broom out there, but when you have several million growing together it makes for an incredible sight to witness.

If you ever get a chance to travel to the park in the spring this another one of those great hikes you will be glad you took. So here are a few shots from the hike, I included a macro version of one the plants and then some of the actual trail itself, thanks for stopping by and taking a look !!

 

gsmnp 2013 fringed phracillia  5

 

 

 

portrers creek trail fringed phacilia 4 2014 great smoky mountain national park

 

 

portrers creek trail fringed phacilia 1 2014 great smoky mountain national park

Wildflowers of the Great Smoky Mountains

Here are a few more images from a recent trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This time I thought I might share a few shots from the Cucumber Gap Trail “love the name” a trail which begins just above the Elkmont campground and makes a wonderful 5 mile loop that travels up thru a lovely hardwood forest and then loops back along a rushing boulder strewn river.

The trail is covered in beautiful wildflowers and here are an example of three that I really liked, Painted Trillium,Foam Flower and Beaked Violet. These are just a few of the indelible number of wildflowers that grow in the Smoky Mountains.  I just wish I had the time to share all of them, I hope you enjoy these and if you ever get to the park in the spring definitely make Cucumber Gap Trail a must for any hike you take !!

 

 

Painted Trillium

 

 

painted trillium great smoky mountain national park 1 2014

 

Foam Flower

 

foam flower 1 2014

 

 

Beaked Violet

 

beaked violet 1 2014