The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is part of the International Biosphere Project. It houses thousands of species of plants from mosses that only grow at the top of the mountains to trees that tower over the surrounding country side. It is easy to see why this area was made a national park, the beauty is only compounded by the flora in the mountains.
During the spring and summer, the mountains are covered with colorful flowers and flowering bushes. Most amazingly the rhododendrons that bloom in late June and early July color the mountains white and pink from the ridges to the valleys. During the fall, as the leaves change color, the trees become the backdrop for many pictures and photographs. The Leaf Season in the Smokies is one of the most popular times to take a drive through the Smokies.
Old Growth Forest – You will hear the term Old Growth Forest bandied about by Park Rangers and in hiking guides all the time when you are in the Smokies. Old Growth Forests are those forests that have remained relatively untouched by man and in the Smokies that means they were untouched by the logging industry as well. There are quite a few trails that will take you into old growth areas of the National Park. The variety of trees, debris on the ground and the age of the trees varies greatly in these old growth areas but they are a lot of fun to walk through and enjoy areas that have been around for potentially hundreds of years.
Hemlocks – One of the most unique evergreen trees in the National Park are the hemlock groves that dot the mountains sides. Beautiful, tall and green from top to bottom, the stands of hemlocks have had trouble in recent years due to the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid which is killing these trees by the dozen.
Ramps – This is one of those plants that few people know about but that the people of the mountains celebrate in festivals around the area. From Waynesville, NC to Cosby, TN, the ramp is the subject of events held annually. This cross between garlic and wild onion is something to taste. It grows in the dark and moist areas of the mountains around and in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Ginseng – You read that correctly, ginseng grows in the Smokies. This is a subspecies of the Chinese variety but it does still have all the same properties – energy and memory restoration. Ginseng has long been harvested in the areas around the park and sold to stores and processors. The ginseng is an herb that has been used by Native American tribes and the European settlers that came later to the area.