Smoky Mountains Fall Red Beauty Mountain Ash!

The high altitude scarlet beauty Mountain Ash is exhilarating!

Smoky Mountains Fall Red Beauty Mountain Ash! Who wouldn’t love a beautiful ornamental tree, not too large or too small, with an abundance of leaves, pure white buds and blossoms in late spring followed by bright red edible berries in the fall, a tree that lives for up to 200 years and has the added (albeit folklorish) benefit of protecting us against evil spirits?  Then meet the mountain ash, also known by its more romantic European name, the Rowan tree.

The first thing to know is that the mountain ash is not an ash tree at all.  While the ash is a very large tree, the mountain ash varies greatly in size, according to the growing conditions, but tends to be much smaller (no more than 10 – 20 feet tall) than the towering ash and belongs to a completely different botanical family—namely, the rose!  Indeed, the mountain ash is often so small that it is thought to be a shrub instead of a tree.  It does, however, have a compound leaf similar to that of the ash (only smaller and with fewer leaflets), which is the apparent source of confusion.

The variety of mountain ash that grows in the Smoky Mountains is the American mountain-ash (Sorbus americanus), which is very similar in nearly every respect to its European cousin (Sorbus aucuparia).  The berries of both varieties often last through the entire winter into blossom time the next spring and thus provide an important source of food for wildlife, especially birds which play an important role is spreading the indigestible seeds of the mountain-ash.  In England the berries, which are inedible raw, are cooked into a jam or combined with apples in a chutney and served with wild game and other meats.

The tree itself is very rugged and adaptable thriving in the Southern Appalachians.  While it prefers a rich, well-drained soil, it will grow in nearly all soils, including our stubborn East Tennessee red clay, compensating for any lack of nutrition it encounters by simply adjusting its size.

In the British Isles the rowan tree is associated with many aspects of Celtic folklore and Christian traditions.  Both Celts and Christians believed that the tree provides those close by with protection against various evils, especially witches.  Hence, rowan branches were often fastened to the lintels of cottage windows and doors as well as over barn doors (for witches especially loved the prank of souring cows’ milk).  Rowan trees were also planted in cottage and church yards for protection.  The fact that rowan trees often grow in mountainous areas was also thought to drive witches from their favorite habitat, although the real reason seems to be that browsing animals, especially deer and elk, love rowan saplings and so devour those growing in the valleys.

During Candlemas (February 2—the traditional midpoint of winter) residents of the English Westlands (Thomas Hardy country) place crosses made of rowan twigs tied with red yarn about their houses to banish the dark of winter and welcome the coming light and warmth of spring.  In Ireland the rowan tree is associated with St. Brigid, the patroness of Ireland, whose feast day is February 1st.

The mountain ash lives so long, at least in part, because it has no pests or diseases that assail it.  Deer, however, do browse on its leaves—a point to keep in mind if you plan to grow a mountain ash in your yard.

Whether for cultural or botanical purposes, the mountain ash is a native tree well worth considering for our own properties, both to add beauty and provide for wildlife.

Mountain Ash can be found be found in many popular high elevation destinations in the Smoky Mountains such as Mount LeConte and Clingmans Dome in addition to our sister national park the Blue Ridge Parkway.

HeySmokies.com is honored to have Carl Parsons as a contributing writer. Carl is Deputy Editor for Storyteller Magazine, a member of the Writers’ Guild of Sevier County, TN, and a Tennessee Master Gardener.

 

Sources:

http://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/mtnash.html

https://treesforlife.org.uk/forest/mythology-folklore/rowan2/

Smoky Mountain Full Hunters Moon

Smoky Mountain Full Hunters Moon. Most of the time, the full moon isn’t completely full. We always see the same side of the moon and part of it is in shadow. When the moon, earth and sun are perfectly aligned is the moon completely full and this alignment produces a lunar eclipse. Occasionally the full moon appears twice in one month and this is called a blue moon. The next full moon will occur on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 at 10:57 a.m. EDT (14:57 UTC), but the moon will appear full the night before and after its peak to the casual stargazer.

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Public Input Requested for Smoky Mountain Proposed Air Tour Management Plan

Public Input Requested for Smoky Mountain Proposed Air Tour Management Plan. The National Park Service (NPS) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are asking the public to comment on the draft Air Tour Management Plan (ATMP) proposed for Great Smoky Mountains National Park through October 13, 2021. The agencies encourage anyone with an interest in or concern about air tours over Great Smoky Mountains National Park to review and comment on the draft ATMP. The proposed plan would authorize up to 946 air tours per year on defined routes. There were on average 946 air tours per year conducted by two air tour operators reported at Great Smoky Mountains National Park from 2017 – 2019.

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Cades Cove Handicapped Accessible Trail Open To Public

New John Oliver cabin trail opens in GSMNP!
New John Oliver cabin trail opens in GSMNP!

Cades Cove Handicapped Accessible Trail Open To Public. National Park officials celebrated the completed trail accessibility project in Cades Cove at the historic John Oliver Cabin. The new trail meets standards of the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) and provides access for visitors of all ability levels to one of Cades Cove’s most popular historic homesites.    

The work of making our parks more accessible for all is so important,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Now all visitors have the opportunity to leave the roadway and be more fully immersed in the Cades Cove story through a trail experience within the historic landscape.”

The trail provides a unique view across the pastoral fields associated with the home of John and Lucretia Oliver, Cades Cove’s first European settlers. The family settled in Cades Cove in 1818. The path provides fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities for deer, turkey, bears, and grassland birds. The half-mile, paved trail is approximately eight feet wide to provide adequate space for wheelchairs and other mobility devices to pass one another. Funding for the project was made possible through a $150,000 donation provided by the National Park Foundation and a $57,000 donation provided by the Friends of the Smokies.  

“It is such an honor to partner with Superintendent Cash and his staff in helping fulfill this vision of making park experiences more accessible,” said Sharon Pryse, Board of Directors Chair for Friends of the Smokies. “We’re grateful for the donations of all our ‘Friends’ who make it possible for us to support special park projects.” 

 “The new trail provides a pathway for all to experience the natural wonder and history of Cades Cove,” said Will Shafroth, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “Thanks to the initiative of Friends of the Smokies and support from NPF and our donors, more people will be able to access and to share the beauty of this place.” 

Smoky Mountain Elk Rut

Love is in the air for Smoky Mountain Elk.

Smoky Mountain Elk Rut is on. The call of the wild echoes in the Smokies as Bull Elks seek mates.

Early autumn sends the powerful mating call of bull elks across many areas of the Smokies during the fall breeding season. This loud bugling sends a challenge to other males in the area, and attempts to attract cows for the bull’s harem. Known as the rut, this annual fascinating ritual, which occurs during mid September through October, is played out each day during the elk mating season. 

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