Each season in the Smokies brings a special beauty to the mountains, and one of the most vibrant times is during spring. With the wildflowers in peak bloom during April, the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau (SMCVB) is once again hosting Herb and Wildflower Day on April 5, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., to allow locals and visitors not only to experience and enjoy the beauty of these wildflowers, but also to learn about the practical and medicinal uses of herbs and wildflowers that are found in East Tennessee.
“This is the seventh year for Herb and Wildflower Day, and it has become a great springtime tradition. People really enjoy learning new things about the wildflowers,” said Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the SMCVB. “It’s a fun and educational event that is great for the family. The mountains really show their true beauty during this celebration. It is so important for visitors to take advantage of this natural opportunity.”
At 7:30 a.m. participants can gather at the front porch of the Townsend Visitors Center for a special tour along the bike path with wilderness wildlife recording expert, Mark Dunaway. Dunaway has an extensive background in avian communication, which explains how and why birds sing.
The day continues at 9 a.m. with a talk about the spring wildflowers by senior botanist for the TVA Heritage Program, Dr. Patricia Cox. In addition to talking about some of our more common showy wildflowers, Cox will discuss some of Tennessee’s most rare wildflowers and why protecting the plants as well as the plants’ habitat is so important.
Then, at 9:45 a.m., Meredith Clebsch, owner of Native Gardens, a nursery that grows and sells native plants, will speak about how to garden with plants native to the area. Since 1983, Clebsch and her husband have been operating Native Gardens in Loudon County, where they offer more than 200 different plant species.
At 10:30 a.m., Dunaway returns to give a presentation on planting for the birds. The talk will instruct people on how to create and enhance a backyard habitat for birds through plantings, shelter, food, and water sources.
During lunch, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., visitors will be able to purchase plants, baked goods and pottery as well as view gardening demonstrations.
“We won’t be providing lunch, but we encourage visitors to grab a quick bite from one of the Townsend eateries or purchase some fresh bread from Marjie Richardson, owner of The Bakery Lady, a local, home-style bakery in Seymour, Tenn.,” said Jeanie Hilten, special events coordinator for the SMCVB.
After lunch, from 1:30 to 5 p.m., Dunaway will be signing copies of the audio CD set, “Bird Songs of the Smokies,” which are a soundtrack to the bird sounds in the Smoky Mountains.
Visitors will also be able to choose between two different hikes that will last from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. or a longer hike that will last until 5 p.m. All hikes are in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The “Ferns and Flowers Stroll,” led by Cox, on Chestnut Top trail is a moderate two-mile hike that can be very narrow in places, so participants are asked to wear sturdy shoes.
Visitors can also choose to take part in the Tremont area walk called “Bees and Blooms,” led by Dr. Jim Lowe, a forest entomologist. The hike, considered easy along the wide, flat trail, follows a large stream, which features several scenic cascades and a four tiered falls at the end.
Or, visitors can take a Nature Hike to White Oak Sinks, led by Jim Burbank, a national park volunteer and expert in wildlife management. This popular trail features 60 different species of wildflowers along a moderately difficult 2.6-mile trail.
Throughout the day, visitors can purchase baked goods from The Bakery Lady, which include home-made bread, sweet rolls, cookies and pies. Additionally, Stringtown Pottery, a Townsend pottery shop, will have items for sale relating to the day’s theme of herb and wildflowers. Honey Rock Herb Farm and Native Gardens will also have plants for sale.
The Townsend Visitors Center is located at 7906 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway. For more information, call the SMCVB at 1-800-525-6834, 865-448-6134 or visit www.smokymountains.org.
Schedule of Events: Herb and Wildflower Day, Saturday April 5
• 7:30 a.m. - Birding Along the Bike Path- Mark Dunaway.
• 9 a.m. - “Spring Wildflowers of the Smokies” talk-Dr. Patricia Cox, TVA Heritage Program.
• 9:45 a.m. - “Gardening with Native Plants”-Meredith Clebsch, Native Gardens.
• 10:30 a.m. - “Planting for the Birds” presentation by Mark Dunaway.
• 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. - Lunchtime break. Gardening demonstrations; sales of plants, pottery, and baked goods.
• 1:30 - 5 p.m. - CD signing in the Townsend Visitor Center, “Bird Songs of the Smokies,” Mark Dunaway
• 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. - Choose: Wildflower Rambles. Chestnut Top, Ferns and Flowers Stroll, Dr. Patricia Cox. Tremont area walk, Bees and Blooms, Dr. Jim Lowe. Nature Hike, White Oak Sinks, Jim Burbank, Smokies V.I.P.
Throughout the day:
• Plant Sales: Honey Rock Herb Farm and Native Gardens
• Herb bread and other baked goods from The Bakery Lady
• Pottery by Stringtown Pottery