Embrace the simple joys of nature at Herb and Wildflower Day In Townsend

In the Smokies, more than 1,500 kinds of flowering plants produce a rainbow of color from March through October with 60 to 70 species in bloom at a single time. Since April is the peak of the wildflower season, the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau (SMCVB) is once again hosting Herb and Wildflower Day on April 7 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to allow locals and
visitors to learn about the practical and medicinal uses of herbs and wildflowers that are found in East Tennessee.

The festivities begin at 9 a.m. with Dr. Patricia Cox, senior botanist for the TVA Heritage Program, who will present an educational slide show of the different types of ferns in the Smoky Mountains and how to identify them. Cox’s presentation covers the new species of ferns that she discovered during her years of work.

Cox will also take participants into the mountains to get first-hand experience with ferns of the Smokies. She will guide walks along the trails, providing up close views of the different ferns and instructions and identification methods, giving program participants the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a botanist.

Professional photographer and Heritage Middle School Art Teacher, Rebecca Shiflett, will be share photographer tips for photographing wildflowers, wildlife and the mountains at 10 a.m.

From 11 a.m to 12 p.m., Interpretive Naturalist Ila Hatter, will provide insight into what is or isn’t safe to eat in the forest with a "food under foot" walk and discussion. Participants will have the opportunity to sample wild edibles, and Hatter will display different products with information about their ingredients and locations.

At 12 p.m., Gaynelle Kyser will teach a class about the history and method of traditional wash pot, cold-cooked soap.

Class size is limited to 10 people, and it based on a first-come, first-serve basis, so interested participants should arrive early. The process takes approximately an hour to demonstrate and will give participants the knowledge to experiment with organic soap at home. Pre-made soaps will also be available for $3.

At 1 p.m., Hope Woodard, an expert on wildflowers and native plants, will present a slideshow, showcasing a large variety of wildflowers and will discuss how to identify different types of plants. She will also explain how to create your own wildflower garden at home and how to establish a butterfly garden in your back yard.

Herb and Wildflower Day also includes hikes led by experts throughout the day. Jim Burbank, Great Smoky Mountains National Park volunteer, will lead a moderately strenuous hike to to White Oak Sinks from 12 to 5 p.m. Also, from 2 to 5 p.m., participants looking for a less intense hike can choose between two guided walks. The "Wildflower Rambles" include a "Chestnut Top Ferns and Flowers" walk with Cox or "Plant and Pollinators" in the Tremont area with Dr. Jim Lowe, forest entomologist.

Throughout the day participants can learn how to make and sample sassafras and ginger tea, which will be made by Kyser. Additionally, the Bakery Lady will have herb bread and other baked goods for sale, and Pottery Planters by Marion Schlauch, a Southern Highlands Handicraft Guild member, Honey Rock Herb Farm and Sunlight Gardens will have pottery, herbs and wildflowers for sale.

Townsend is located in East Tennessee and is a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Townsend Visitors Center is located at 7906 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway. For more information, please call the SMCVB at 1-800-525-6834, 865-448-6134 or visit the bureau online at www.smokymountains.org.

Schedule of Events: Herb and Wildflower Day, Saturday April 7

  • 9 a.m. - Ferns of the Smokies with Dr. Patricia Cox
  • 10 a.m. - Nature Photography with Photography Professional Rebecca Shiflett
  • 11 a.m. - Wild Edibles with Interpretive Naturalist Ila Hatter
  • 12 p.m. - Lye Soap Demonstration with Gaynelle Kyser
  • 12 - 5 p.m. - Moderately strenuous hike to White Oak SinksLed by: Jim Burbank, Great Smoky Mountains National Park volunteer. Bring lunch, drink, raingear and hiking shoes.
  • 1 p.m. - Wildflower Slide Presentation by Hope Woodard of Hedgewood Gardens
  • 2 - 5 p.m. - Wildflower Rambles: "Chestnut Top Ferns and Flowers" with Dr. Patricia Cox; "Plant and Pollinators" in the Tremont area with Dr. Jim Lowe, forest entomologist.

Throughout the day:

  • Sassafras and Ginger Tea Demonstration and Sampling—Gaynelle Kyser
  • Plant Nurseries with herbs and wildflowers for sale—Honey Rock Herb Farm, Sunlight Gardens
  • Herb Bread and other Baked Goods—from the Bakery Lady
  • Pottery Planters by Marion Schlauch, Southern Highlands Handcraft Guild Member

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