Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Yellow Lady Slipper Hike

Yellow Lady Slipper Hike

**Do Not E-mail me or Post Comments to
ask for wildflower locations.  The comments will get deleted.
The emails will go un-answered.  **

Dana Koogler 

Tuesday April 21, 2015

Total Hike Distance 4 miles approx.

Pictures are here: YLS Hike Pix

Note the photos are a combination of hikes to various areas.
Not any one spot. 

   Last season lots of the yellow lady slipper orchids did not bloom at all.  Some that did bloom
were deformed or withered.  I found a lot in one location last year, but this Spring I was hoping
to catch them in peak bloom minus the frost bite!   I was fortunate and was able to do just that.
I figured at the lower elevations they'd be in bloom. Tuesday I dropped Michael off at school
and went straight out to hike from there.      I did not tarry long in any one spot since I had 
a lot I wanted to fit in before I had to go pick him up from school at the end of the day.

         The wildflowers are in peak bloom in the Smokies and not just the lady slippers.
I had the perfect Spring day to hike.  The temperature was about sixty degrees and got up to 
sixty-five for the high.   A nice breeze was blowing. Plenty of sunshine at last!  The rain had stopped for a day. We have had an unusually rainy Spring, but the up side to it is that the rivers and waterfalls are gushing!   The Great Smoky Mountains are a rain forest, so what do I expect?!

         I will say that I have been disappointed over the years to see how some of the locations for
viewing Yellow Lady Slipper orchids have disappeared! I think humans have a lot to do with it.
I also know that deer will browse them and other wildflowers out of existence.   I had a lady tell me
there used to be yellow lady slippers along the Walker Sisters hike, but they are gone.
There used to be several locations down in Whiteoak Sinks, but many of those are gone. 
The NPS road and view maintenance sometimes devastates native orchids in their attempts to preserve one feature.. they ruin other things!  

          It dismays me to see large groups of wildflower pilgrims tromping round in hoards.
The park and the wildflower photographer groups don't seem to believe in limiting group size as
wilderness regulations call for.  The park has raised hell with some backpacker groups because
of their failure to keep their party numbers within what the regs call for.  Yet, they allow
the trampling hoards to run rough shod over the forest floor during these other events.
In my opinion... make the rules for everyone. Not just for some. And not just for "sometimes".
Keep to it ALL the time!

         I hiked solo.  I saw a few other hikers, but by picking a weekday and getting an early start
I think I avoided luring anyone behind me to where I was going.
Sunshine at last!  Glad to see a break from the rain.

Yellow was the color of the day. Trillium luteum in great patches today!

Ferns line the creek and the path.

More yellow in the form of Mountain Bellwort. Look for these tiny beauties in piney woods.

Catesby's trillium along the path.  These are in peak bloom now. They age to pink.
They also like piney woods. 

Small cascade along the hike with lots of pretty moss, yellow trilliums and ferns.

Sunny morning trail

Pair of Yellow Lady Slippers.

   Today I found twenty seven plants or more.  I only saw two that were not in bloom and those were immature plants.    I learned something last Spring I will share.   The large, regular form of Cypripedium pubescens will cross with the small variety forming a new variety!   I have seen all three in one area in the Smoky Mountains and in the Cumberland Mountains.  

Notice something has nibbled a hole in the slipper of this orchid.


              It is interesting and fun and sometimes frustrating to hunt native orchids.
It is rewarding when you're successful.   Do not ever dig these beauties up from the location where you find them.  They all depend on that very spot for their survival.   Native orchids of all varieties depend on
mycorrhizal fungus in the soil to thrive.   Digging up native orchids or ANY wildflower from the Smoky
Mountains National Park is illegal.  Unless you are a licensed taxonomist doing a study for the park
or  participating in a relocation of plants and flowers to save them from a freeway going through or something
major like that DO NOT DIG THE PLANTS! Do not divulge their locations either.  
Don't buy these from the area "Wildflower Sales" as I strongly suspect some of the sources of these to be
unscrupulous plant diggers.  I was on my way to hike today I saw a sign for Wildflower Sale!
I can't help wondering where they got their wildflowers.  I hope they didn't poach them.



  1. Do yellow and pink grow together? I have lived in the GSMNP all my life but have never seen a yellow slipper. I have been doing a lot of hikes this year to try to find some tof no avail. I have found plenty of pink ones. Should I be looking around the pink ones for the yellow ones?

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    2. Pink lady slippers prefer a pine woods. Think Ace Gap trail Little Brier Gap.. those types of woods.
      Yellow lady slippers can grow in a variety of places, but they like moister woods like a cove hardwood forest. I have never found them growing side by side. I have seen them this year blooming at the same time as one another, but in different areas. The yellow ones are more rare and harder to see. I drove down the road this year.. and looked to the side of the road and saw one.. only one alone.. blooming in a spot where I had never seen them before. Even though I've drive past it many many times. I don't know what drew my eye to it. Luck I guess.


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