As winter fades and the colors of spring begin to sparkle throughout the Smokies, Gatlinburg blossoms into the center of all things botanical during Great Smoky Mountain Association’s 64th annual Wildflower Pilgrimage, on April 15 – 19.
Each year, more than 600 people from 35 states and beyond descend on the Great Smoky Mountains to experience unprecedented access to some of the nation’s leading botanical experts as well as Appalachian wildlife authorities. The event is sponsored, in part, by several departments at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
“It is a rare opportunity for those with a personal love of flowers to have the same access to leaders in the field as researchers,” said Ken McFarland, a botanist and professor at the University of Tennessee. “Through seminars and intimate guided tours, each participant will expand his or her skills and knowledge of the unmatched flora and fauna of the Smokies.”
The pilgrimage kicks off with a welcoming luncheon on Wednesday, April 16 at 11:30 AM at Mills Conference Center. Guest speaker Mary Priestly, curator of the Sewanee Herbarium and author of “William’s Wildflowers,” a children’s field guide to wildflowers, will discuss reading as a way to introduce children to nature.
The Wildflower Pilgrimage, which dates to 1951, offers over 150 programs including an array of instructional walks and guided hiking tours tailored to meet individual walking skill and ability, along with demonstrations and guest lecturers. These tours showcase the abundant varieties of wildflowers, plants, ferns, mosses, trees and shrubs, as well as birds, reptiles and amphibians, all native to the Great Smoky Mountains. A photography contest is open to the public featuring Flora, Fauna and Landscape categories
While most classes take place in the great outdoors, a number of educational classroom sessions and evening entertainment taking place in W.L. Mills Conference Center in downtown will round out the week in Gatlinburg and the Smokies. Participating sponsors are Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Great Smoky Mountains Association, City of Gatlinburg, University of Tennessee Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Friends of the Smokies, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, TVA, Southern Appalachian Botanical Society and Gatlinburg Garden Club.
Download the 2014 activity brochure, learn more about the event, get information about the photography contest and register online at www.springwildflowerpilgrimage.org.