Story and images by Tom Harrington
In this edition of Wildflowers 101, let us look at three more mid to late summer wildflowers: wild golden glow, monkshood, and grass of Parnassus. These three wildflowers have several common characteristics. First, they all grow on Mount Le Conte, which is the third highest mountain in our beautiful national park. Secondly, they also grow in Grand Tetons National Park, although the western species of these flowers seem larger than the ones in the Smokies. Finally, like many summer wildflowers, these have larger blooms and are taller than many spring wildflowers.
|Wild Golden Glow|
Wild golden glow is listed as “coneflower” in most of the wildflower books you will find about Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The blooms are yellow with a greenish center, and the plants can be up to ten feet tall. They bloom from July to August, and my favorite locations to see these charming blooms are around the lodge on Mt. Le Conte and along Newfound Gap Road, especially in the higher elevations.
It is certainly most fulfilling to arrive at the LeConte Lodge and find wild golden glow, crimson beebalm, Turk’s cap lilies, and monkshood in full bloom at the same time. An interesting fact about wild golden glow is that Native Americans use the root of this plant to make a tea to treat indigestion.
The second summer wildflower that we will examine is monkshood. The blooms are a vivid purple, the plants can be two to four feet tall, and they bloom from late July to September. I have found them only at two locations in the park: behind the lunchroom at LeConte Lodge and on Boulevard Trail (beneath Myrtle Point) about a mile before reaching the Lodge.
Please note that monkshood is said to be very poisonous. The plant is reported to be used to make sedatives and pain relievers for rheumatism. It was said that the ancient Greeks and Romans would dip their spears and arrows into the juices from the plant. Also, the roots of this plant were put inside bait to kill wolves, thus giving the plant the alternative name “wolfsbane.”
|Grass of Parnasus|
The third summer wildflower that we are checking out today is grass of Parnassus. The only location that I have found this enchanting beauty is on Mt. Le Conte along the following trails: Alum Cave Bluff, Trillium Gap, and the Boulevard (all within a mile of the lodge). The plants that I have seen while hiking in the Grand Tetons are larger than those I have seen in the Smokies. The plant can be eight to ten inches tall, and the white blooms appear in August. What is striking to me is that each petal has 11 to 15 green veins in it. It likes to grow in moist areas along rocky embankments.
The summer season is certainly moving along at a rapid pace, so hopefully you can take advantage of the remaining opportunities to get out into nature to seek, find, identify, and enjoy the breathtaking wildflowers of GSMNP before the dark winter days surround us. Happy wildflowering!
Tom Harrington is an Army veteran and retired insurance agent who has spent his life in Knox County, TN. He is an avid hiker and has volunteered for GSMNP since 2000.