Story and image by Tom Harrington
Suppose you were visiting New York City, got a ticket to attend a live TV quiz show, were invited to be a participant, and the first question asked of you was to name the State of Tennessee’s official wildflower. Could you answer that question correctly? You may know that the official flower of Tennessee is the iris, but you might not be familiar with the official wildflower of the state.
The passion flower is, in my humble opinion, one of the most interesting wildflowers. It grows on a vine which can be from 10 to 30 feet long, and the blooms appear between June and September. The best location to find these beautiful white and purple blooms is in the fields of Cades Cove. Years ago I located them near the water tower on the Metcalf Bottoms Trail; however, I have not seen them there since the water tower was removed. Some people have also reported seeing them in the Cherokee Orchard area.
One of the most fascinating things that I have read about this flower is that some people say the bloom resembles the crucifixion of Christ. The corona represents the crown of thorns; the stamens and pistil, the rails of the cross; and the petals and sepals, the faithful apostles.
Although the plant isn’t known for its medicinal properties, it is reported that it was sometimes used to treat anxiety.
A friend gave me a passion flower plant years ago; however, in all of these years it has not bloomed. Hopefully if you get a passion flower plant you will have better luck with yours than I have had with mine!
If you can believe it, we are less than three months away from Christmas. Maybe one of your family members will ask you what you would like to have for Christmas, and you might consider giving them the names of some wildflower books that you would like to have. The park's visitor centers have good selections of wildflower books to consider. In the meantime, happy wildflowering for the rest of this season.
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.