Spring Ephemerals

 By Sarah


“Once you learn the name of a wildflower, you no longer pass it by  as just another ‘weed,’ especially if you discovered and identified it yourself.  The flower then has an identity that is rooted not only in a guidebook, but in you as well.”

A patch of trout lilies

This quote comes from page xii of the introduction to Wildflowers of the Southern Appalachians: How to Photography and Identify Them by Kevin Adams and Marty Casstevens.  I’ve certainly found it to be true to my experience as an amateur connesiuer of wildflowers.  Having grown up in the suburbs of a blue-collar city, I didn’t have much exposure to flowers outside of regular garden annuals.  I moved to the mountains, and suddenly I yearned to know the names of everything around me.


With the recent beautiful spring weather, I’ve been fortunate to be able to get out and partake in a couple extended hikes.  The mountainsides have been flush with blooming flowers.  The picture above is just a small sampling of a mountside that I saw covered in trout lilies.  And why do they have such a name?  According to Wildflowers of the Smokies, it’s because the markings are said to resemble a brook trout’s.  Laura C. Martin’s Wildflower Folklore also tells me that trout lilies, which have also been known as fawn lily and adder’s tongue, are edible and can be prepared with butter or as a tea to cure hiccups.  Mmm!  Martin’s book is a treasure tove of natural lore.  It purports to be able to tell you what wildflowers can be used as freckle removers, snake repellants, and even love potions.


Trillium are also in bloom right now — you can see white and deep red varieties.  Their entry in Harold William Rickett’s Wild Flowers of the United States: The Southestern States has an asterisk next to the heading.  The corresponding footnote asks the cheeky question, “If we translate Lillium into Lillies, why not Trillium into ‘trillies’?”  I can’t answer that, but who knew wildflower guides could be so rhetorically sassy?  I can pass along this fun fact, though: it takes up to six years to grow from seed to flower.  So don’t go picking them!  Besides a little scientific attitude, Rickett’s massive multi-volume tome also has beautiful illustrated plates along with a wealth of botanical knowledge.

Fontana Regional Libraries have a plethora of wildflower books (besides those previously mentioned) to help you identify whatever you come across on the trail.  Check out some of these titles:

2 thoughts on “Spring Ephemerals

  1. Sarah, I really enjoyed this book. I spotted a yellow lady’s slipper this week and it was beautiful.


  2. Sarah, I am a wildflower lover, too. My favorites have always been dark purple violets and mountain laurel (in some locations called mountain ivy). And I love the Kevin Adams book; the photos are so ethereal. He did a program at Macon once and it was wonderful. Maybe we should get him back!


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