Creative Commons

For centuries, gathering sochan—also known as the green-headed coneflower—has been a rite of springtime for the Cherokee people. more

Mountain Explorer

The Smokies are known for their spring ephemerals. Hundreds of species of wildflowers, like bloodroot, Dutchman’s breeches, trout lily, trilliums and more impatiently claw their way through the brown leaf litter under the sparse spring canopy. more

Mountain Explorer


Kristina Plaas photo

A kaleidoscope of color defines fall in the Smokies. The hue of a tree’s leaves tell the story of the natural history of each species. more

Mountain Explorer

Witch Hazel

Betty Shelton •

Picture that perfect fall afternoon hike: The sun warms the air from high overhead in an endless Carolina-blue November sky; the creek next to the trail murmurs softly. more

Mountain Explorer

Dolly's Dots

James Lendemer photo

Dolly Parton has long been in a class of her own in the Smokies. Thanks to scientists, now she’s got her own species, too. more

Mountain Explorer

Blooming rhododendrons

Keith Callahan photo

This time of year, the outlook is bright in the mountains. After all, about a dozen Rhododendron species flower throughout the Smokies, painting our higher elevations in shades of pink, purple, scarlet, and white. more

Mountain Explorer

Grassy Ridge Bald at Roan Mountain

Brian Stansberry/Creative Commons

The Southern Appalachians are a paragon of biological diversity. The Appalachians are the country’s most significant biodiversity hotspot east of the Rockies, and the Central and Southern Appalachians are unrivaled in the U.S. for aquatic diversity. more


Visitors to Western North Carolina’s mountains can look forward to a good display of color this autumn, although some areas will enjoy brighter hues than others, predicts Kathy Mathews, Western Carolina University’s fearless fall foliage forecaster. more

Mountain Explorer

Fire Pink

Don Casada photo

An avenue of asphalt winds its way along hundreds of miles of ridge lines forming a world of natural wonder. The Blue Ridge Parkway offers a bounty of blessings, and perhaps nothing quite matches the breathtaking beauty of the Parkway’s wildflowers. more

Mountain Explorer

When you first see it, perhaps you think it’s bamboo, a non-native species. Actually, it’s river cane (technically, Arundinaria gigantea). The plant was here before the Europeans came into these hills. more

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Closer look

Martin Hutten photo

When Jim Lowe strikes out on his twice-monthly foray to check insect traps in the Smokies, he never knows just what is in store. Lowe runs various and sundry traps — cups sunk in the ground, large mesh nets draped from poles and dangling funnels. more


Gettin' up there

Jason Childs photo

Jesse Webster consulted his GPS and eyed the tangle of rhododendrons stretching out of sight up the mountainside. Somewhere beyond the gnarled thicket lay a massive grove of old-growth hemlocks — at least that’s what aerial photos suggested. more


N.C. Arboretum

Ashley T. Evans photo

Whether it’s a meadow covered in spring wildflowers, a forest teeming with colorful blooms of the rhododendron, or a grove of towering hemlocks, the Smoky Mountain landscape is defined by an incredible array of plant life. more


Some species that have disappeared from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park over the past two centuries are finding their way back again, thanks to restoration efforts of park rangers and wildlife lovers. more

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