As the winter chill begins to fade away, the anticipation of another vibrant spring in the Smokies fills the air. Since the wildflower season hits its peak in April, the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau (SMCVB) once again is hosting the Herb and Wildflower Day on Saturday, April 4 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. where visitors and locals have the opportunity to learn about and enjoy some of the more than 1,500 kinds of wildflowers and flowering plants that bloom from May to October in the Smoky Mountains.
“Over the past several years Herb and Wildflower Day has become a great springtime tradition, and this year the event will be one of many celebrating the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 75th Anniversary,” said Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the SMCVB. “This fun and educational event gives people the opportunity to experience the natural beauty the Smokies have to offer.”
The day will begin at 9 a.m. at the Townsend Visitors Center as Tom Harrington, Great Smoky Mountains National Park volunteer and naturalist, presents a slide show on the identification of wildflowers in the Smoky Mountains. As a Park volunteer, Harrington regularly hikes the trails and reports on the wildflower growth during the spring and the changing foliage in the fall.
The presentation, titled “Get to Know the Wildflowers of the Smokies,” will focus on learning how to identify wildflowers in a fun way. A selection of wildflowers will be shown and participants will get the chance to practice their newly acquired skills.
At 10 a.m., Aaron Wolfenbarger, researcher from the University of Tennessee, will present information on the different fungi of the Smoky Mountains and how to identify them in his “The Fungus Among Us” presentation. In particular, Wolfenbarger will focus on different varieties of mushrooms and their role in the environment.
Wolfenbarger will discuss the life cycle of mushrooms and which ones in particular can be found this time of year. He will also instruct participants on which mushrooms are safe to eat and which should be avoided.
Andrea Wilson, award-winning East Tennessee artist, will be discussing her botanical artwork at 11 a.m. Wilson’s botanical artwork is created through water color paintings, charcoal sketches and copper plating and etching.
Visitors will learn how Wilson started on her path to sketching and painting botanicals and will have the opportunity to view her artwork and ask questions. Wilson also will demonstrate the process she goes through and the techniques she uses when creating her artwork.
“What’s in Bloom Stroll,” led by Great Smoky Mountains National Park volunteer and wildlife management expert Jim Burbank, is an easy walk to Chestnut Top. Chestnut Top is known for its abundance in wildflower species and is a popular spot during the springtime. Throughout the trip, participants will experience the cool, shady and moisture rich environment of the abundant wildflowers on the western side, as well as the warmer, drier environment on the decent of the stroll.
Visitors also can choose to participate in “The Forest in Early Spring”, a longer nature hike along Little River Loop with Dr. Jim Lowe, a forest entomologist Little River Loop is a moderate, five-mile round trip hike beginning along an old gravel road paralleling the river of the same name and gently climbing into the forest for the rest of the trail. Or, visitors can choose to take a garden tour of the Lily Barn to see and buy lilies, native perennials and more.
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.