Category Archives: Wildflowers

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Bluets

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Bluets

Bluets (Houstonia serpyllifolia)
Bluets (Houstonia serpyllifolia) © William Britten use with permission only

Bluets (Houstonia serpyllifolia) are identified by the four blue petals surrounding a yellow spot. Common names for this wildflower include Thyme-leaved Bluet, Prostrate Bluet, Mountain Bluet, and Creeping Bluet. The plant is tiny, only 3 to 5 inches tall, but growing in a large group they can make a beautiful statement.

The photo above was found along the Thomas Divide Trail in late-April.  The photos below were found near Clingmans Dome in Mid-May.

Smoky Mtns wildflowers
Smoky Mtns wildflowers © William Britten use with permission only

Bluets enjoy moist conditions, along streams especially. Look for them along Clingman’s Dome Road later than in the lower elevations.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Bluets along the trail
Bluets along the trail © William Britten use with permission only
Bluets (Houstonia serpyllifolia)
Bluets (Houstonia serpyllifolia) © William Britten use with permission only

 

Mountain Laurel Time in the Smokies

Mountain Laurel Time in the Smokies

Mountain Laurel in the Smoky Mountains  © William Britten use with permission only
Mountain Laurel in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only
Mountain Laurel bloom in the Smoky Mountains  © William Britten use with permission only
Mountain Laurel bloom in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only

It’s that beautiful time of year again when the Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) bloom along the trails and in the woods of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Mountain Laurel are similar to, and often mistaken for, Rhododendron. In the Smokies the Laurel bloom primarily during May, while the Rhododendron come along in June and July.

One of the Featured Photographs at the William Britten Gallery is Path to Serenity, which shows a hillside of Mountain Laurel blooming along the trail to Spruce Flat Falls.

Mountain Laurel bloom in the Smoky Mountains  © William Britten use with permission only
Mountain Laurel bloom in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only

One of the best displays of Mountain Laurel can be found along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. At the top of the hill there is a parking area to the left. In early to mid-May you can see the thickets of laurel from your car, but to get the full effect, get out and walk in among all the blooms.

I was in that spot photographing, deep in my private reverie with my eyes in the camera viewfinder. Suddenly I heard some snorting and clomping, and looked up to see that a doe had joined me in the laurel thicket. She was unafraid, and stayed close by for 30 minutes or so, even when I moved my tripod from spot to spot.

Deer in  the Mountain Laurel © William Britten use with permission only
Deer in the Mountain Laurel © William Britten use with permission only

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Mountain Laurel in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only
Mountain Laurel in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only
Mountain Laurel in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only
Mountain Laurel in the Smoky Mountains © William Britten use with permission only

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Crested Dwarf Iris

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Crested Dwarf Iris

Crested Dwarf Iris (Iris cristata)
Crested Dwarf Iris (Iris cristata) © William Britten use with permission only

Continuing our theme of spring wildflowers of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, first up this week is the Crested Dwarf Iris (Iris cristata). This flower is an April bloomer, especially along the Chestnut Top Trail near Townsend. On the Bud Ogle Nature Trail there are some large colonies.

The flower gets its name from the distinctive yellow crest that is meant to guide insects towards their pollination target. Compared to the common iris that you may have in your front garden, Crested Dwarf Iris is a truly tiny plant that may only be 4 inches tall.

 

Crested Dwarf Iris (Iris cristata)
Crested Dwarf Iris (Iris cristata) © William Britten use with permission only

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mtn Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Crested Dwarf Iris © William Britten use with permission only
Crested Dwarf Iris © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Fringed Phacelia

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Fringed Phacelia

Fringed Phacelia  © William Britten use with permission only
Fringed Phacelia © William Britten use with permission only

Fringed Phacelia (Phacelia fimbriata) is the wildflower that covers the hillsides along the Newfound Gap Road like a late dusting of snow in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The blooms form a densely packed groundcover in April. The Fringed variety is one of four Phacelias found in the Smoky Mountains.

Perhaps the most unique characteristic of Fringed Phacelia is that the plant dies after blooming, leaving its seeds to sprout the following year. It’s an annual!

Fringed Phacelia can be viewed along the Cove Hardwoods Nature Trail, where it forms a thick understory to the trilliums and other larger wildflowers. Both the photograph above and the one below were taken a few days ago on the Cove Hardwood Trail in the Chimneys Picnic Area.

Phacelia on Porters Creek Trail
Phacelia on Porters Creek Trail © William Britten use with permission only

There is also an especially attractive cove of Phacelia along the upper portions of the Porters Creek Trail as seen in the photo above.

If you’re on a Smoky Mountains getaway, please stop in for a visit at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN, where my complete collection of Smoky Mountains photographs are on display.

Fringed Phacelia  © William Britten use with permission only
Fringed Phacelia © William Britten use with permission only
Wildflower Trails: Chestnut Top Trail

Wildflower Trails: Chestnut Top Trail

Chestnut Top Trail © William Britten use with permission only
Chestnut Top Trail © William Britten use with permission only

Just a hundred yards north of the Townsend Wye is a parking lot, and across the road is the start of the Chestnut Top Trail. In spring this is one of the premier Smoky Mountains wildflowers hikes, with opportunities for photos every few feet! The trail cuts into a steep embankment, climbing steadily for the first half-mile or so. It is this part of the hike that is packed with a huge assortment of flowers. Hike the trail often during late March and April, and you will see plenty of Trilliums. Fire Pink, Star Chickweed, Trailing Arbutus, Crested Dwarf Iris, Squawroot, Spring Beauty, Bishops Cap, Foamflower, Stonecrop, and many more. How’s that for name-dropping?

Another nice thing about Chestnut Top Trail is that the steep bank puts many of the blooms almost at eye level on the upper side of the hill, which sets them up nicely for photos.

As you climb the steep hill, the Little River runs north below you, and eventually you can spot the fields of Tuckaleechee Cove.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of wildflowers and landscape photos of the Smoky Mountains at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.  And if you are a facebook user, please “Like” either of the two pages shown on the panel to the right. On the Wildflowers Community page we share photos, bloom locations, and other tips.

Crested Dwarf Iris © William Britten use with permission only
Crested Dwarf Iris © William Britten use with permission only

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Pink Lady’s Slipper

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Pink Lady’s Slipper

 

Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)
Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) © William Britten use with permission only

Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) is a member of the orchid family that grows to 18 inches tall. It’s a fairly rare Smoky Mtn wildflower to find! The ladies above were spotted stepping out just off  Twin Creeks trail near the Bud Ogle Place on the Roaring Fork. The photo at the bottom was taken along the Porters Creek Trail in the Greenbrier area of the Smokies.

Pink Lady’s Slipper is nearly impossible to propagate or transplant. The dry acidic woods are the most likely place to find them growing. They bloom in late April at the lower elevations.

 

Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)
Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) © William Britten use with permission only

The genus name Cypripedium is derived from the Greek, meaning “Venus’ shoe.”

After the wildflower hunt, please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mtn Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. I’m in Morning Mist Village on Glades Rd along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail.

Smoky Mtn wildflowers
Smoky Mtn wildflowers © William Britten use with permission only

 

 

 

 

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Painted Trillium

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Painted Trillium

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)
Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) © William Britten use with permission only

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) is one of the most attractive, and most elusive of the Trilliums.  A rare sight, perhaps because it is at the southern edge of it’s range in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Painted Trillium favors cool northern forests.

Identification is very easy, with the prominent maroon paint circling the inner bloom. This Smoky Mtn wildflower favors acidic soils, so look for it in the shade of acid-loving plants such as pines and rhododendrons.  The example above was found growing on top of a large boulder beside the Porters Creek Trail in the Greenbrier section of the Smokies.  The photo below was taken along the Thomas Divide trail, where the bloom occurs much later at the higher elevation.

 

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)
Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) © William Britten use with permission only

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mtn Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

 

Smoky Mtn wildflower
Smoky Mtn wildflower © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Wake Robin Trillium and Bishops Cap

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Wake Robin Trillium and Bishops Cap

Wake Robin Trillium © William Britten use with permission only
Wake Robin Trillium © William Britten use with permission only

April is prime wildflower time in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so I will be devoting many posts to that springtime topic as the annual Wildflower Pilgrimage approaches later this month.

As the name implies, the Wake Robin Trillium (Trillium erectum) is an early bloomer and heralder of spring. Another inhabitant of the moist woods, you might look for Wake Robin along the Greenbrier Road or Roaring Fork. The main features of the Wake Robin are the single flower rising erect over three large leaves.

Wake Robin Trillium with Bishops Cap © William Britten use with permission only
Wake Robin Trillium with Bishops Cap © William Britten use with permission only

The bloom of the Wake Robin Trillium is typically maroon in color, but it may also be cream or white, as below.  In both the picture above and the one below, the delicate Bishops Cap (Mitella diphylla) is rising on a frail stalk nearby.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Wake Robin Trillium with Bishops Cap © William Britten use with permission only
Wake Robin Trillium with Bishops Cap © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Dutchmans Breeches

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Dutchmans Breeches

Dutchmans Breeches
Dutchmans Breeches © William Britten use with permission only

Dutchmans Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) is a unique early spring wildflower found in the Smoky Mountains.  The name of course comes from the blooms, which look like pairs of tiny pantaloons hanging from a clothesline. Look for this stunning wildflower along the Cove Hardwoods Nature Trail in the Chimney Tops picnic area on the Newfound Gap Road. Like many of the wildflowers, Dutchmans Breeches is so small and delicate that it helps to know what the leaf looks like. The photo below shows the finely dissected deep green leaves, which you may have to separate with your hands to find the blooms.

Dutchmans Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)
Dutchmans Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) © William Britten use with permission only

Dutchman’s Breeches looks similar to Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis), which you can also find on the Cove Hardwoods Nature Trail. Look closely at the pictures of the two, and you will see the difference in the bloom. The genus name Dicentra is Greek for “twice-spurred.”

As with many wildflowers, this one has a use by humans. Legend has it that Native Americans used Dutchmans Breeches as a love charm, and that a man’s breath after chewing the root would attract a woman even against her will.

Dutchmans Breeches
Dutchmans Breeches with leaves © William Britten use with permission only

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Dicentra cucullaria blooms
Dicentra cucullaria blooms © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Showy Orchis

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Showy Orchis

Smoky Mtn Wildflower: Showy Orchis
Smoky Mtn Wildflower: Showy Orchis © William Britten use with permission only

Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis) is, as the name implies, in the Orchid family. It’s a spectacular discovery, when you find it. But as a matter of fact, both times I’ve stumbled on this beauty have been at the edges of parking lots. Not exactly the distinguished presentation that might be expected for such a regal flower. But sure enough, the wildflower books say that Showy Orchis likes the disturbed edges of roads and trails … so start your search there!

I’ve seen Showy Orchis near the first parking area in the Chimneys Picnic Area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and also at the edge of the parking area for Porters Creek Trail, which is where the photo above was taken. The Bud Ogle Nature Trail is also a good area to look.

This wildflower blooms in April at the lower elevations.

Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis)
Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis) © William Britten use with permission only

After your wildflower hike, please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mtn Photography at theWilliam Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

 

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Toothwort

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Toothwort

Smoky Mountain Wildflowers: Toothwort
Smoky Mountain Wildflowers: Toothwort © William Britten – use with permission only

Toothwort (Dentaria diphylla) is another one of those tiny Smoky Mountain wildflowers that look so inconsequential when you gaze down on them from above. But get down to their level, especially with a magnifying glass or macro lens, and the delicate beauty is breathtaking.

The Toothwort leaves were used as wild salad greens by Smoky Mountains folk. Below is the Broadleaf variety of Toothwort, found along the Bud Ogle Nature Trail and many other areas of the Smoky Mountains during April.

Toothwort (Dentaria diphylla)
Toothwort (Dentaria diphylla) © William Britten use with permission only

Toothwort blooms early along the damp, rich woodland hillsides that border so many of the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Look for the scalloped three-part leaves and the little four-petal blossom. The photo below shows the Cut-leaved variation of Toothwort (Dentaria laciniata), identified by the deeply-cut narrow leaves. It was found along the Chestnut Top Trail in late March.

Toothwort (Dentaria laciniata)
Toothwort (Dentaria laciniata) © William Britten use with permission only

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

wildflowers photos

Favorite Trails: Porters Creek

Favorite Trails: Porters Creek

Porters Creek Trail © William Britten use with permission only
Porters Creek trailhead © William Britten use with permission only

Porters Creek Trail is a delightful meander in the Greenbrier section of the Smoky Mountains. Head east out of Gatlinburg on Route 321, then after about 6 miles, the Greenbrier entrance will be on the right. Eventually the road will turn to gravel and you’ll pass the bridge to the Ramsay Cascades Trail. Continue straight ahead until the road finally dead-ends at the trailhead parking lot. The trail follows Porters Creek for most of the way, and as you can see from the sign it is one of the many trails leading to the summit of Mt. LeConte.

rters Creek in the Smoky Mountains
Porters Creek
Smoky Mountain footbridge
Porters Creek Trail footbridge

The first mile of the trail is a well maintained jeep road with an easy walking grade. Along the way are many opportunities to slow you down and take photos. Watch to the right for many signs of pioneer homesteads. There are rock walls, chimneys, house foundations, and even a primitive cemetery.
These echoes of early settler life in the Smoky Mountains testify to the harsh realities of scraping a life out of rugged and isolated terrain.

Rock wall in the Smoky Mountains
Rock wall remnant from pioneer days
Stone steps
Rock steps from pioneer homestead
Smoky Mountain cemetery
Smoky Mountain cemetery

In April the Porters Creek Trail becomes one of the the best wildflower hikes in the Smokies.

White Trillium © William Britten use with permission only
White Trillium © William Britten use with permission only

For a nice two-mile round-trip hike, continue on up the trail and bear to the right when the jeep road enters a turnaround. At this point you can take a short side-trail over to visit a small group of log buildings, including the John Messer barn, which was built around 1875, and the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin, which was constructed from 1934-36.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of photos of the Smoky Mountains at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. If you are a Facebook user, you can get my daily Smoky Mountains news and photos by becoming a fan of the William Britten Photography Facebook Page.

Pioneer barn © William Britten use with permission only
John Messer Barn © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin © William Britten use with permission only
Wildflower Photography: Coneflower Dreamscape

Wildflower Photography: Coneflower Dreamscape


Coneflower Dreamscape © William Britten use with permission only

The photograph above is the Green Headed, or Cutleaf Coneflower.  It blooms all along the roadside in the middle of summer up near Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park .

Here’s a fun photo tip for taking a picture like the one above. One of my favorite techniques is to take the photo twice: once in a normal mode with your subject in focus, and a second time with the picture out of focus. You will need to have a camera or lens that allows you to turn the auto-focus off.  Then you will need some basic Photoshop skills to blend the two images together.  With this fairly simple technique you can create images with added depth.

The photo below is the blurred version that was blended into the image above to help create the dreamy effect.

Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. The Gallery is located along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail along Glades Rd.  In addition to framed and matted prints, there are magnets, mugs, and notecards to help you take a Smokies memory home.

Blurred version of the Coneflowers
Blurred version of the Coneflowers © William Britten use with permission only

impressionism prints

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: One-flowered Cancer Root

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: One-flowered Cancer Root

Orobanche uniflora
Orobanche uniflora © William Britten use with permission only

Now here is a Smoky Mountains wildflower with a dramatic name!  One-flowered Cancer Root (Orobanche uniflora) is one of the root parasites. The tiny pale-white or lavender blooms sit atop hairy leafless stalks. They come up in clusters in rich, damp woods and stream banks. The bloom appears in April and May. These photos were taken along the Husky Gap Trail and the Old Sugarlands Trail near the Visitors Center.

There is another parasitic wildflower with the name Cancer Root, or Squaw Root.

If you are a Smoky Mountains wildflowers fan, please consider joining my wildflower page on facebook.  We feature photography and information on bloom sightings. And if you’re travelling to the Smokies on vacation, please stop in at the William Britten Gallery along the historic Arts and Crafts Loop on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg. All of my Smoky Mountains landscape photos are on display, along with mugs, magnets and notecards.  There may be a special mountain memory for you to take home.

Smoky Mountains wildflower
Smoky Mountains wildflower © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Trailing Arbutus

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Trailing Arbutus

Smoky Mountains photos: wildflowers
Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) © William Britten use with permission only

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) is one of the earliest wildflowers to bloom in the Smoky Mountains. All of the photos on this page were found near the top of the Chestnut Top Trail, starting to bloom in mid-March. The blossom tends from white to pale pink. There are also good displays of Trailing Arbutus along the trail to Spruce Flat Falls as well as the Abrams Falls Trail. All of these trails offer great opportunities of Smoky Mountains photos of wildflowers.

This wildflower forms a low-growing shrub-like evergreen which sheds and replaces its leaves in the spring after the bloom. The delicately scented blossom was used by mountain women as a perfume.

Please stop in for a visit at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN to see the complete display of  Smoky Mountains Photos. And if you are a fan of Smoky Mountains wildflowers, please consider joining my wildflowers page on facebook.  We feature photography and information on bloom sightings.

Smoky Mountains photos: wildflowers
Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains photos: wildflowers
Smoky Mountains photos: wildflowers © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Gay Wings

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Gay Wings

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Gay Wings
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Gay Wings © William Britten use with permission only

Gay Wings (Polygala paucifolia) is a perennial herb in the Milkwort family. The Greek name “Polygala” means much milk, and refers to the belief that eating these plants would increase the production of milk in nursing mothers and livestock. The two petals of the flower give the appearance of a bird in flight. Other common names include Bird on the Wing and Flowering Wintergreen.

These are tiny wildflowers, but if you hike the trail to Abrams Falls in early April, you can’t miss seeing many clumps of these tiny blooms on the hillside above the trail.

If you are a fan of Smoky Mountains wildflowers, please consider joining my wildflower page on facebook.  We feature photography and information on bloom sightings. And if you’re travelling to the Smokies on vacation, please stop in at the William Britten Gallery along the historic Arts and Crafts Loop on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg. All of my Smoky Mountains landscape photography is on display, and there may be a special mountain memory for you to take home.

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers Photography
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers Photography © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Dog Hobble

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Dog Hobble

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Dog Hobble
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Dog Hobble © William Britten use with permission only

Dog Hobble (Leucothoe fontanesiana) is among the early Smoky Mountains wildflowers.  It’s a member if the Heath family, like Trailing Arbutus, the Azaleas, Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel. The plant has evergreen, leathery leaves, and gets its name from a tendency to form impenetrable tangles along streams in the Smokies. The strongly scented white bloom clusters can usually be spotted in April. The leaves are reported to be highly toxic, perhaps even fatal, if eaten.

If you are a fan of Smoky Mountains wildflowers, please consider joining my wildflower page on facebook.  We feature photography and information on bloom sightings. And if you’re travelling to the Smokies on vacation, please stop in at the William Britten Gallery along the historic Arts and Crafts Loop on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg. All of my Smoky Mountains landscape photography is on display, and there may be a special mountain memory for you to take home.

Dog Hobble
Dog Hobble © William Britten use with permission only
Wildflower Photography Tips

Wildflower Photography Tips

Photo Tip for wildflowers
Photo Tip for wildflowers © William Britten use with permission only

Updated 2012: This blog post was originally written two years ago, in spring of 2010. The information here is still very valid and useful, but in the past couple of years I’ve adopted a more “minimalist” approach to photography, and especially wildflower photos. The main difference is that I’m now using a very lightweight camera, which I find very enjoyable for Smoky Mountains hiking. I currently use a Panasonic Lumix GH2, which is a micro-four-thirds system. This allows me to carry a camera with a 600mm equivalent lens in the palm of one hand! This is fabulous for all kinds of photography, especially wildlife and wildflower photos.

So, although I still use the system pictured above for serious wildflower portraits — a full-frame Canon DSLR with ring-flash and tripod — my every day gear these days is the small GH2 on a monopod (which doubles as my hiking stick!) with the 14-140 lens. This gives me a 28-280 zoom in 35mm equivalent terms, and I find it gives very good results for wildflower close-ups. I’ve added a typical shot from this camera/lens at the bottom of this page. It doesn’t give you that classic “macro” look with the extreme narrow depth of field, but it gives very good results … and it’s so much fun to use! And I still wouldn’t leave home without the 12″ LiteDisc in my back pocket!

There are several issues to consider when photographing wildflowers in the Smoky Mountains. First, many of them are tiny, so to get a real good portrait you will need a macro lens. I find that the 100mm is most useful, although I also use a 180mm. In general, macro lenses are reasonably priced and tend to be of very high quality.

Second, although it may seem counter-intuitive, the sun is not your friend. A flower bathed in direct sunlight will be harshly lit with shadows that are too dark for your camera to contend with. There are exceptions to this of course, such as the golden, syrupy light of early morning or sunset. But in general, you will want something  to shade the plant. I carry a 12″ disc called a LiteDisc by Fotoflex, which will collapse into a small disc that fits in my back pocket. You can get one that is silver on one side (pictured above) and gold on the other side. These can also be used to reflect light into the scene. Or you can get a translucent disc that will turn direct sunlight into a diffused, soft light. Or you might just try an umbrella!

Third, now that you have blocked the sunlight, you will need to provide your own light. In the picture above you can see a ring flash attached to the front of my macro lens. The advantage of the ring flash is that the camera will automatically bathe the flower in a perfect light, giving you great exposures every time. You will not be able to get the same effect from a normal flash attachment.  An alternative to the ring flash is a small portable “soft box.”  Or the no-cost solution would be to go out on rainy days. But most of the time you will have no control over the lighting conditions, so by carrying these items you will always be able to create a perfect lighting environment.

Fourth, the problem that is the most difficult to solve is wind. Again, these are tiny, delicate blossoms, and you are down on your hands and knees with a magnifying lens. You’ve carefully composed a perfect view of this miniature world, and suddenly those little plants start waving about in just a slight breeze. There’s not much to do except wait it out. Stick your eyes in the viewfinder until your knees give out, and if there is just a second or two of calm, snap the picture. Also, early mornings tend to be calmer, and as the day heats up it creates air currents. Also, if the forecast is for wind or an approaching storm front, postpone your trip if you can.

In the photo above I was interested in the little white Star Chickweed blossoms in a clump underneath the Yellow Trillium on the Chestnut Top Trail. Below is the final image. Click on the image above or below for a larger version.

That’s my photo tip for getting great wildflower pictures. Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountain Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN.

Star Chickweed © William Britten use with permission only
Star Chickweed © William Britten use with permission only
White Erect Trillium taken with Panasonic GH2
White Erect Trillium taken with Panasonic GH2
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Star Grass

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Star Grass

Star Grass (Hypoxis hirsuta)
Star Grass (Hypoxis hirsuta) © William Britten use with permission only

Star Grass (Hypoxis hirsuta) is a common perennial herb that grows to 8 inches or so. It blooms in mid-May, and when not in bloom looks much like a clump of grass.

These Smoky Mtns wildflowers are similar to Blue-eyed Grass, and in fact I found both of these blooming grasses on the same day along Ace Gap Trail in the northwestern section of the Smokies.

This wildflower is a member of the Amaryllis family, close to the Lily family, and with a characteristic of having no leaves on the flower stalk.

On your next visit to the Smokies please stop in at the William Britten Gallery along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg. You’ll find my complete display of Smoky Mountains photos.  And if you are a wildflower enthusiast, please join the Smoky Mtns Wildflowers Community on Facebook.  We swap photos, information, and tips on what is in bloom in the Smokies.

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Blue-eyed Grass

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Blue-eyed Grass

Blue-eyed Grass
Blue-eyed Grass © William Britten use with permission only

Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) is a petite, delicate Smoky Mountains wildflower. It’s a member of the Iris family, and there are four varieties of Sisyrinchium: Pale, Eastern, Stout, and Slender. To be honest, I don’t know which ones are pictured here, but I’m calling them Stout.

This wildflower grows to about 8 inches tall, and is similar in appearance (except for color) to Star Grass.

The photo above was taken along Schoolhouse Gap Trail, and the one below was found on Ace Gap Trail. Both were blooming in mid-May.

If you’re traveling in the Smoky Mountains area, please consider exploring the historic Arts and Crafts Trail along Glades Rd. east of Gatlinburg. You’ll find the William Britten Gallery in Morning Mist Village. The gallery features my complete line of Smoky Mountains photos.  And if you are a wildflower enthusiast, please join the Smoky Mountains Wildflower Community on Facebook.

Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium)
Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium) © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Soapwort Gentian

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Soapwort Gentian

Soapwort Gentian (Gentiana saponaria)
Soapwort Gentian (Gentiana saponaria) © William Britten use with permission only

In the catalog of Smoky Mtns wildflowers, there are several species of Gentians represented. The variety shown here is Soapwort Gentian (Gentiana saponaria). It has the characteristic tight cluster of tubular blossoms that require bees to pry apart the petals as they do their pollination work.

These are stunning late summer wildflowers which bloom in September in the lower elevations of the Smokies.

The genus takes its name from King Gentius, a ruler of 6th century Illyria, who thought the plant could cure his malaria-plagued soldiers.

Smoky Mtns Wildflowers
Smoky Mtns Wildflowers © William Britten use with permission only

If you are traveling in the Smokies on vacation, please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mtns Photos at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. There may be a special Smokies photo memory for you to take home.

And if you are a wildflowers enthusiast, please join our Smoky Mtns Wildflowers Community on Facebook. We exchange photos and identifications, bloom locations, and info on these delicate and beautiful plants.

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Hearts-a-Bustin’

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Hearts-a-Bustin’

Hearts-a-Bustin' in autumn
Hearts-a-Bustin' in autumn © William Britten use with permission only

Hearts-a-Bustin’ (Euonymus americanus) is actually a small shrub. In mid-to-late May these Smoky Mountains wildflowers show a charming but inconspicuous little bloom that shows little hint of the color that will come later.  In September, when summer’s green is beginning to fade, the hearts bust open to reveal a stunning red berry.  It’s an early autumn harbinger of the colors that will soon dominate the October landscape.

You can find these wildflowers along the Sugarlands Nature Trail or the Laurel Falls Trail, as well as many other creekside trails. Other common names for the plant include Strawberry Bush, Swamp Dogwood, and Spindle Bush.

Hearts-a-Bustin' in Spring
Hearts-a-Bustin' in Spring © William Britten use with permission only

If you are traveling in the Smokies on vacation, please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photos at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. There may be a special Smokies photo memory for you to take home.

And if you are a wildflowers enthusiast, please join our Smoky Mountains Wildflowers Community on Facebook. We exchange photo identifications, bloom locations, and info on these delicate and beautiful plants.

Smoky Mountains wildflowers
Smoky Mountains wildflowers © William Britten use with permission only
Sunflowers of Cades Cove

Sunflowers of Cades Cove

Narrow-Leaved Sunflower © William Britten use with permission only
Narrow-Leaved Sunflower © William Britten use with permission only

The sunflowers family is a big one, with 20 species known to inhabit Tennessee, and 7 of those found within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On a tour of the Cades Cove Loop Road, you will see many of these.

Early one morning recently, I made the loop, stopping constantly to investigate yet another yellow cluster of yellow wildflowers. However, even with a couple of guidebooks, identification is not simple. So the labels on these images are my best guess.  Please feel free to offer corrections.

In any case, these yellow sunflowers are beautiful … adding even more sunshine to a bright summer day.

If you take a break from touring the Smokies, please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photos at the William Britten Gallery along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg, TN.

Whorled Rosinweed © William Britten use with permission only
Whorled Rosinweed © William Britten use with permission only
Wide-leaved sunflower © William Britten use with permission only
Wide-leaved sunflower © William Britten use with permission only
Black-eyed Susan © William Britten use with permission only
Black-eyed Susan © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Yellow Fringed Orchid

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Yellow Fringed Orchid

Yellow Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris)
Yellow Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris) © William Britten use with permission only

The Smoky Mountains photos on this page are of Yellow Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris). These stunning summer wildflowers bloom in July and August in the Smokies.  The blossoms can be from bright orange to yellow, with the distinctive long fringe, most noticeable in the photo at the bottom of this page.

This orchid grows in acidic, shady conditions at mid-elevations. The specimens here were found just off Little River Road between Elkmont and the Laurel Falls Trail. You might also see them in the woods in Cades Cove or along Bullhead Trail.

Smoky Mountains wildflower
Smoky Mountains photos of wildflowers © William Britten use with permission only

If you are traveling in the Smokies on vacation, please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photos at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. There may be a special Smokies photo memory for you to take home.

And if you are a wildflowers enthusiast, please join our Smoky Mountains Wildflowers Community on Facebook. We exchange photo identifications, bloom locations, and info on these delicate and beautiful plants.

Yellow Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris)
Yellow Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris) © William Britten use with permission only
Wildflower Wallpaper!

Wildflower Wallpaper!

Smoky Mountains Wildflower Wallpaper
Smoky Mountains Wildflower Wallpaper

To celebrate summer in the Smokies, for all my blog, facebook, and twitter followers I’m offering another free image in a series of Smoky Mountains photos that can be used as a desktop wallpaper or as a screensaver.  The image, and all other wallpapers, can be downloaded from http://williambritten.com/wallpaper/ Just click on the file name wildflower-screensaver2.jpg, and then once the large image has come up in your browser, right-click on it to save it to your hard drive. Then follow instructions below.

The image shows some green-headed coneflowers that have been changed a bit with some background textures blended in to give the picture more complexity.

For Windows users, just save the file to any location, then Open Desktop Background by clicking the Start button , clicking Control Panel, clicking Appearance and Personalization, clicking Personalization, and then clicking Desktop Background. Then click the Picture location down arrow and click Browse to search for the picture on your computer. When you find the picture you want, double-click it. It will become your desktop background and appear in the list of desktop backgrounds. Finally, under How should the picture be positioned, choose to have the picture fit the screen, and then click OK.

On the Mac, save the image to your Pictures folder, or any other location. Open System Preferences icon on your dock, and select Desktop & Screensaver. Select the picture, and then select Fill Screen, or Stretch to Fill Screen.

Watch for more free wallpaper images in the weeks to come!  And please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photos at the William Britten Gallery along the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Road in Gatlinburg, TN.

And if you are a wildflower enthusiast, please join our Smoky Mountains Wildflowers Community on Facebook. We exchange photo identifications, bloom locations, and info on these delicate and beautiful plants.

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Red Elderberry

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Red Elderberry

Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa)
Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) © William Britten use with permission only

These Smoky Mountains photos show Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa), which is one of the wildflowers that is actually a shrub that grows to 10 feet tall. The bloom is distinguished from the Common form of Elderberries by the bright red fruit as well as a red tinge to the white blossom.  The blossom is also more pyramidal in shape.

The photo above was taken along Clingmans Dome Road in May.  The stunning red berries in the photo below were spotted in the woods off the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, making a very dramatic statement in the green woods.

During your trip to the Smokies, please consider a stop at the William Britten Gallery on the historic Arts and Crafts Trail along Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg.  The full display of my Smoky Mountains photos may contain a special memory of the mountains for you to take home.

Also, if you are a wildflowers enthusiast, please join my Smoky Mountains Wildflowers Community on Facebook. We trade photos and tips on bloom locations.

Smoky Mountains Photos
Smoky Mountains Photos © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: St. Andrews Cross

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: St. Andrews Cross

St. Andrews Cross (Hypericum hypericoides)
St. Andrews Cross (Hypericum hypericoides) © William Britten use with permission only

St. Andrews Cross (Hypericum hypericoides) is a member of the St. Johnswort family.  It’s distinguished from the other Hypericum wildflowers primarily by the four petals, which form the cross, instead of the typical five petals. The blossom appears in July and August in the Smoky Mountains.

Native Americans chewed the root as a remedy for snakebite and made tea from the leaves to treat a variety of ailments. Modern medicine has investigated its use in treatment of HIV.

Smoky Mountains wildflowers
Smoky Mountains wildflowers © William Britten use with permission only

If you are in the area on vacation, please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. There may be a special Smokies photo memory for you to take home.

And if you are a wildflower enthusiast, please join our Smoky Mountains Wildflowers Community on Facebook. We exchange photo identifications, bloom locations, and info on these delicate and beautiful plants.

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Southern Mountain Cranberry

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Southern Mountain Cranberry

Southern Mountain Cranberry (Vaccinium erythrocarpum)
Southern Mountain Cranberry (Vaccinium erythrocarpum) © William Britten use with permission only

Southern Mountain Cranberry (Vaccinium erythrocarpum) is a member of the Heath family … a blueberry bush with red berries!  Another common name is Bearberry. It’s a low bush, about 3-4 feet tall. The wildflowers photos here were taken along the Appalachian Trail just west of Clingmans Dome, on a dry, rocky ridge-top. Bloom time for this bush is June.

If you’re in the Smoky Mtns for a vacation, please come on out to the historic Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd in Gatlinburg TN. The William Britten Gallery has my complete display of Smoky Mtns photos. There may be a Smokies memory waiting for you to take home!

Southern Mountain Cranberry (Vaccinium erythrocarpum)
Southern Mountain Cranberry (Vaccinium erythrocarpum) © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: St. Johnswort

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: St. Johnswort

Mountain St. Johns Wort
Mountain St. Johns Wort © William Britten use with permission only

Hypericum is another family of wildflowers with lots of species. Over 25 can be identified in Tennessee and many of these can be found in the Smoky Mountains, giving plenty of opportunities for misidentification.  Therefore, the two species in the photos here are my best effort to identify!

St. Johns Wort is famous as an herbal treatment for mild depression. Some studies have shown the plant extract to have similar results to standard antidepressants, with half the side-effects.

Mountain St. Johns Wort (Hypericum gravolens), in the photo above and at the bottom of the page, blooms July-September in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The plant enjoys moist seeps and grassy areas. You might see it along the Cades Cove Loop Road. The images on this page were taken along Porters Creek Trail in the Greenbrier section of the Smokies.

Spotted St. Johns Wort (Hypericum punctatum) in the photo below is a smaller variety, with distinctive black dots on the leaves, stem and the underside of the blossom. These are different from the translucent dots found on other species in the Hypericum family. The leaves are also more blunt or rounded at the ends.

Spotted St. Johns Wort (Hypericum punctatum)
Spotted St. Johns Wort (Hypericum punctatum) © William Britten use with permission only

If you are in the area on vacation, please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. There may be a special Smokies photo memory for you to take home.

And if you are a wildflower enthusiast, please join our Smoky Mountains Wildflowers Community on Facebook. We exchange photo identifications, bloom locations, and info on these delicate and beautiful plants.

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers © William Britten use with permission only
Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Wood Sorrel

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers: Wood Sorrel

Mountain Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana)
Mountain Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana) © William Britten use with permission only

There are several species of Wood Sorrel wildflowers found in the Smoky Mountains. All have the characteristic shamrock-like leaves and high concentration of oxalic acid that gives them the common name Sour Grass.

The common Mountain Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana) pictured above is usually found at higher elevations, such as the acidic Spruce-Fir forests around Clingmans Dome. The little white blossoms with pink stripes are similar to Spring Beauty, but the bloom time in June and July happens long after the Spring Beauties have gone.

The Price’s Wood Sorrel (Oxalis priceae) in the photo below is a rare find in the Smokies. As much as the Mountain Wood Sorrel favors acidic conditions, Price’s will thrive only in the limestone soils found in the Northwest corner of the National Park. The plant below was found along Ace Gap Trail.

During your trip to the Smokies, please consider a stop at the William Britten Gallery on Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg.  The full display of my Smoky Mountains photos may contain a special memory of the mountains for you to take home.

Also, if you are a wildflowers enthusiast, please join my Smoky Mountains Wildflowers Community on Facebook. We trade photos and tips on bloom locations.

Price's Wood Sorrel (Oxalis priceae)
Price's Wood Sorrel (Oxalis priceae) © William Britten use with permission only

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