Thursday, June 27, 2013

What is that flower?

Columbine, a wildflower that is new to me.

On our May travels to attend various family events, we took several days for a leisurely detour into the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our first overnight stop was Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

The next morning we paid to go into a venerable tourist attraction that featured the actual blowing rock that gave the mountain town its name. The attraction included a well-maintained garden, pathways, safety railings (important for this stroke survivor’s comfort zone) and observation deck.

The garden afforded cozy and lovely spots to sit and absorb the serenity of the surroundings, protected from the wind. Mid-May was still the off season, and I’m not sure that “serenity” would apply mid-summer. From the observation decks there were beautiful views of the surrounding dramatic terrain.

The name Blowing Rock was well deserved. The rock formation and the air currents from a gorge far below combined to produce an intense wind. I had to concentrate to keep my balance.

But the wildflowers captured my attention the most. There were bluets, old friends I was acquainted with from visits to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Another was a species of columbine, an exotic-looking wildflower that is a favorite of hummingbirds.


The perennial’s flaming red and yellow blooms hung from slender stalks. I probably never would have learned its identity if not for the Wildflowers of the Smokies by Peter White. This 208-page soft-cover field guide contains beautiful photos of flowers, all arranged by colors.

It fits into purse or daypack and is an easy-to-use starting place for me and other enthusiastic but inexperienced wildflower fans. What surprised me is that the plant ranges from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia and south to Florida and Texas. Apparently that includes my home state of Mississippi.

Regrettably, my contact with wildflowers is mostly limited to vacation travel. I had heard the word columbine but had never before seen a picture or actual plant and blooms. Seeing it was like receiving an unexpected gift.
Hubby’s photo, my hand. Photo: Walter Skupien

My attempts to capture images of my new botanical acquaintance had me hanging over guardrails, poking my camera through the rails and twisting around, all while trying to keep my balance. I am fairly pleased with the results, both for not falling on my face or other body part and for capturing a few fairly useable shots.

Not so much the bluets. Bluets are tiny, a half inch or less diameter with blue petals and yellow center. Individually they might go unnoticed, but they grow close together and create bright patches of blue. I never did successfully capture their color and, well, the endearing way they look. Yes, flowers can be endearing.
Wildflowers of the Smokies by Peter White
The photo above is borrowed from the online store of the Great Smoky Mountains Association here. Even when I am indoors and far from the Smokies, the cover of this little book, the feel of it in my hand and a browse through its pages can fill me with anticipation of, wonder at and thankfulness for the beauty in our world.

 Rhododendron, another familiar mountain favorite, Photo: Walter Skupien

My brief wildflower photo safari had me smiling the rest of the day.

Husband Walter posted more about our Blowing Rock visit here and about another enjoyable stop here that we made on the same day.


  1. Only about a year ago, I met the columbines for the first time and was amazed! I did a blog post about them, they are so complex and beautiful. It is too bad that all I can think of when I see one is the horrible high school shooting at Columbine, the first of many.

  2. that columbine is gorgeous, i have read the name in books i read but not seen one. the one i recognize and have always loved is the Rhododendron.. glad you got to see these and did not fall off of whatever had the railing you were hanging over

  3. Oh I do love Columbines. We used to drive up to BR when I lived in NC years ago. Loved it then. Hopefully not too much has changed. Dianne

  4. These are some great flower photographs! I've tried taking a few, but haven't quite gotten the hang of it--yet!

    Just hearing about your mountain trip makes me long to be there...

    Have a great weekend!

  5. I have both red Columbine (and blue and yellow) plus Forget-Me-Nots growing in my yard. They do well in the coolness at high altitude.

  6. I enjoy wildflowers, too. The drought here, coupled with the fire last year, has all but wiped out the growth of wildflowers, sadly. We are hoping for some rain over the next few days to revive some of that. Thanks for your photos. They fed my wildflower appetite a bit!