10 Common Smoky Mountain Wildflowers You’re Likely to See on Your Spring Hikes

February 29, 2024

There are more than 1,500 flowering plants that grow in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and 80 percent of them are wildflowers. This is more than any other U.S. national park, which is why the park is sometimes called the “Wildflower National Park.” Many of the hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains offer the chance to see these colorful and fragrant plants. Here’s a list of some of the common Smoky Mountain wildflowers you’re likely to see while hiking this spring.

1. Flame Azalea

Flame azalea is one of the Smoky Mountain wildflowers that you may get to see on your spring hikes. This is a flowering deciduous shrub that typically blooms at low elevations in April and at high elevations in June or early July. These wildflowers are red and yellow and grow at the end of the branch. You’re likely to see flame azaleas on Gregory Bald, Andrews Bald, the Curry Mountain Trail, and other spots throughout the national park.

2. Trillium

white trillium growing along Little River TrailThere are 10 different species of trillium that grow in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including white trillium, yellow trillium, Catesby’s trillium, painted trillium, Vasey’s trillium, and others. These Smoky Mountain wildflowers each have their own unique features and can be white, red, yellow, pink, and maroon, depending on the species. The common feature of trillium is the three petals surrounding the center. Trillium can be found along many hiking trails in spring.

3. Spring Beauty

Spring beauty is a Smoky Mountain wildflower that usually blooms in early April. This wildflower is commonly found over a wide range of the national park, and it often grows in large groups on the forest floor. Spring beauty is only 3 to 4 inches tall and has 5 white or pale pink petals with pink stripes. You can find this wildflower on the Chestnut Top Trail and other trails throughout the park. 

4. Bloodroot

bloodroot wildflower in the Smoky MountainsBloodroot is another spring flower, often blooming in late March or early April. This is one of the Smoky Mountain wildflowers that is primarily found in lower elevations. Bloodroot blooms for only a short time, so there’s a small window in which you can see its narrow white petals with a gold center of stamens. This plant gets its name from the orange-red sap that colors the roots. Common hiking trails to see bloodroot include the Porters Creek Trail, Chestnut Top Trail, and others.

5. Foamflower

One of the easiest Smoky Mountain wildflowers to identify is foamflower. This plant has spikes of white flowers on a leafless stem. The leaves below the flowers resemble maple leaves and are on long, hairy stems. The entire plant is about a foot tall. Foamflowers start to bloom in April and can be found along the Chestnut Top Trail, Cove Hardwoods Trail, Bud Ogle Nature Trail, and others.

6. Crested Dwarf Iris

crested dwarf irises in the SmokiesAnother easy-to-spot Smoky Mountain wildflower is crested dwarf iris. This plant blooms in April and has three blue-purple petals above three petal-like sepals with yellow crests. Crested dwarf iris is a small plant that only grows to about 4 inches tall. Large colonies of this wildflower grow along the Bud Ogle Nature Trail and can also be found throughout the national park at mid to low elevations.

7. Phacelia

There are four species of phacelias that grow in the Smoky Mountains, the most common of which are white fringed phacelia and purple phacelia. White fringed phacelia blooms in early spring in dense colonies that cover the hillsides at mid to high elevations like Clingmans Dome and the Chimneys Picnic Area. Purple phacelia is the tallest of its family and blooms in clumps in mid to late April at mid to low elevations.

8. Blue Phlox

blooming blue phlox in the Smoky MountainsBlue phlox is another of the Smoky Mountain wildflowers that can be seen at lower elevations in the national park. This plant has flowers that range from light blue to deep purple with five notched petals around a very narrow tube. Blue phlox tends to bloom in April and is one of several species of phlox that grow in the park. Some of the most impressive displays of blue phlox can be seen from the Schoolhouse Gap Trail.

9. Wild Geranium

Another April-blooming wildflower that can be found throughout the Smoky Mountains is wild geranium. This wildflower has five bright pink and purple petals and stands 12 to 18 inches tall. Wild geranium is commonly found in the mid to low elevations of the national park, including along the Deep Creek Trail, Porters Creek Trail, Rich Mountain Loop, and more.

10. Hepatica

cluster of sharp-lobed hepaticas growing at the base of a treeThere are two varieties of hepaticas that can be found in mid to low elevations of the Smoky Mountains: sharp-lobed hepatica and round-lobed hepatica. The difference between these species lies in the shape of the leaf. These are some of the earliest Smoky Mountain wildflowers to bloom, often in late winter. These plants have a single flower on a hairy stalk surrounded by dark, lobed leaves. These wildflowers can be white, pink, purple, or pale blue. 

Best Spring Hiking Trails to See Smoky Mountain Wildflowers

These are just a few of the many Smoky Mountain wildflowers that you may get to see during your spring hikes. Other notable wildflowers include galax, Bishop’s cap, violets, trout-lily, wild strawberry, fire pink, columbine, squirrel corn, bleeding heart, and many others. If you’re looking for trails you can hike to see wildflowers this spring, check out this guide to the best spring hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains!