Native Plants at Blackberry Blossom
Are you looking for a place which has an abundance of beautiful native
plants to study? We are fortunate to live in such a place and we'd like
to share this beauty with others who also share our respect for rare
plants and native wildflowers.
Pink Lady's Slipper, one of the gorgeous
orchids which grow in the woodlands of Blackberry Blossom.
This orchid is also known as the "Moccasin Flower" because of it's
moccasin-like shape. It also favors a part of the male anatomy and is
where the word "orchid" comes from. Interesting and unusual, huh?
At Blackberry Blossom Farm, we've discovered a variety of native plants
including orchids, medicinal herbs, wildflowers, mosses, ferns and
lichens which are part of the southern Appalachian culture that we
embrace. The Cherokee National Forest is home to hundreds of these
native plants. We hope our efforts to preserve these species will
encourage other nature lovers to join us as we pass our enthusiasm on
to the next generation, who will help all of us protect them.
When Blackberry Blossom Farm and Campground opens to the public, our goal is
to allow other people to follow our nature trails and enjoy the
wildflowers as their seasons bring out their natural beauty. We don't
collect rare native plants from the wild, but enjoy them where they pop
through the moist forest floor. That is what we invite you to do also.
Take pictures, take home memories, leave everything else here in it's
Downy Rattlesnake Plantain
Also an orchid, these plants are beautiful year-round with their evergreen
"rattlesnake skin" leaves. The dried seed pod also has the distinction
of looking like a rattle on the poisonous Timber Rattlesnake who shares
these woods. This orchid is quite common but still a delight to find.
Solomon's Seal, a lovely, graceful plant with a tropical-looking flair.
Named Solomon's Seal because the roots have scars said to resemble wax seals.
It is regarded as an edible plant root, as is False Solomon's Seal,
which grows in the same habitat and looks similar but shows it's blooms
on top instead of hanging underneath.
These plants, along with Ramps, Asparagus, and surprisingly, Yuccas and
Greenbriar's, are in the Lily family.
The medicinal native plant herbs, which have been collected by mountain
people for centuries, grow without effort here in the east Tennessee
mountains. Over the years, irresponsible over-collection have made many
of these native plants become endangered and protection is necessary to
ensure their survival in the wild.
Oops! Found growing in some landscape Mondo Grass. This native plant needs a
better spot to grow and will be transplanted to a more suitable site
after the seed pod releases it's seeds and we'll capture them for
This native plant is in the Poppy family and is one of the first welcoming
flowers to bloom after a cold stark winter. It's beautiful white waxy
flower only lasts a few days. The root has been dug for generations by
Native Americans for lung ailments and as use as a natural dye.
Appalachian people used it for basket, wool and egg dyeing.
Lack of chlorophyll makes this flowering plant look like a ghostly mushroom,
but it's not a fungus. Unable to produce it's own food, it gathers
nourishment from the organic decaying stuff in the soil where it lives.
It sports scales instead of leaves and is in the Wintergreen family.
Cherokee legend says that this plant grows where Cherokee clan leaders
once argued and smoked a peace pipe before the argument was settled.
The Cherokee god destroyed the council and to remind them to settle
their differences, this plant comes up as a white pipe. We've found
several arrowheads in our creeks and fields, so we know Native
Americans, Cherokee being the main tribe, inhabited this area for some
time whether they passed through while hunting or stayed for extended
Lichens, like these beauties, abound on trees and rocks.
Not really a native "plant", but the combination of a fungus and an algae,
the Smooth Rock Tripe below grows VERY slowly on (mostly) limestone and
granite rocks facing south. One source we heard said it only grows an
inch every 100 years. It's been used for centuries for the purple dye
for wool it produces, called Orchil. But unless found already detached
from the rock and lying on the ground, it should never be harvested for
any purpose. It's also said to be a survival food and can be eaten if
boiled. Looks a little like tree ear mushrooms I've use in Chinese
As we walk through our Cherokee Forest home, the size of the boulders
amaze us. Huge rounded humps pop out where the imagination can run wild
and pretend to see petroglyphs painted on the smooth boulder sides or
tribes of Native Americans camped nearby. This rock with the Smooth
Rock Tripe looks like an Easter Island statue with a peeling
mudbath...okay, back to native plants.
The crown jewel of the mountain medicinal herbs. This native plant has
brought such high prices that unscrupulous diggers will steal this
plant from private property within touching distance of a man's house.
Sadly, it's becoming rare in the wild and even with conservation
practices and laws in place, the future of this native plant beauty
probably lies in private propagation. This reminds me of similar
practices such as herding wild buffalo and horses onto ranches for
their survival. Needful, but sad.
This large-leafed native plant looks like foot high umbrellas on the forest
floor where it grows in patches. The single flower is white and hangs
underneath the "umbrella" leaf. The resulting fruit is about the size
of a large rose hip and shaped like an apple. It's been used by
mountain families to make jelly which has a slightly sweet but acidic
light strawberry flavor. All other parts of this plant are deemed
fatally toxic although the roots were used by Cherokee and Penobscot
Indians for medicinal ailments for centuries. Another interesting
future promise is the anti-cancer properties found in this plant and
are being used to treat lung and breast cancer.
What a surprise to find these edible mushrooms growing in the leaf litter of
our forests at Blackberry Blossom Farm! We'd heard they were here, but
not until we consistently started finding them were we convinced they
were a steady and returning addition to our native plant food supply.
For all you ever wanted to know about these incredible mushrooms
including gathering techniques and recipes, visit
The Great Morel
Butter and Eggs, Yellow Toadflax
This beautiful yellow flower looks like a smug little snapdragon. I'd heard
about it years prior from my mother-in-law before finally finding it in
a parking lot in Boone, NC. Thinking it was a native plant, my mom
and I "rescued" it from being trampled and planted it in a flower
bed last summer. I was so excited when I saw it come up this year, knowing
we were in for a treat of light yellow and darker yellow profusion of
flowers, similar to a free-range egg cooked over medium.
Unfortunately, I also found out this year that it is listed as a non-native noxious
weed and is hard to eradicate once established. It does provide food
for butterflies and is a bee pollinator plant, but I have to weigh the
long-term cost of introducing a plant that doesn't belong here. After
years of pulling overgrown Bittersweet vine, which my mother-in-law
planted as an ornamental, I fully know the longterm effects of planting
non-native plant invasives. We're trying to become good stewards of our
native plants and flowers of the Southern Appalachian home we live in,
and that just doesn't fit comfortably into the plan.
I suppose Mr. Toadflax will need to go into a pot and we'll monitor the
seed maturation to keep it from spreading by wind propagation.
Our children have learned a respect for the plants and animals which make
this their home. Part of their homeschooling education has been
directed toward learning conservation of all of our natural resources.
This respect, we hope, will take them into their adulthood with an
interest in the world around them, regardless of what part of the world
As we add to this page, we'll share with you pictures and information
about these gorgeous plants, their uses, and odd but interesting facts
we've accumulated. Our goal is not to be "just another information
page", but to present the information in a unique way that will stick
with you and encourage you to come experience these plants for
Other sites and friends we highly recommend...
For an extremely comprehensive and informative site for Tennessee Native
Plants and Wildflowers, please visit our fellow Tennessean, Kris Light
East Tennessee Wildflowers and Hiking Trails
. She also has the coolest science downloads for kids of any age. Great
home school or teacher resource. She has beautiful photography of these
wildflowers which you can own and enjoy year-round.
Another gorgeous place I love is Mark Peacock's site at
and the lovely work of Lee Fierbaugh at
From These Hills
. Both of these are local folks talented beyond belief and their
photography/blogs are havens where you'll get lost for hours reading
the musings and enjoying the beautiful galleries of photos from our
Southern Appalachian Mountains. So grab a nice cup of tea, put on that
hammered dulcimer music and relax. This is truly like a spa treatment
for your brain.
You're sure to fall in love with all of these artists work and feel the need
to collect some from each.
For some inventive farm equipment Ed's built to fill a need on our
Appalachian berry farm, check out
Homemade Farm Equipment
Our Campground page will also interest you with more native plant pictures
Blackberry Blossom Campground
,which will be opening soon!
Learn how we propagate plants for our nursery and farm at
Plant Propagation at Blackberry Blossom