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/

GSMNP Fall Volunteer Service Days Scheduled

Smoky Mountain service days
Smoky Mountain service days volunteers needed!

GSMNP Fall Volunteer Service Days Scheduled. Great Smoky Mountains National Park invites the public to “Fall into Volunteerism with Smokies Service Days!” Several single-day volunteer opportunities across the park will be held Saturdays beginning October 24, 20230 through November 21, 2020. Each experience provides a unique, hands-on opportunity to help care for park campgrounds, historic buildings, and natural resources.

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GSMNP Wears Valley Bike Trail Under Review

Wears Valley bike trail proposal under review.
Wears Valley bike trail proposal under review.

GSMNP Wears Valley Bike Trail Under Review. Park officials announce Wears Valley Bike Trail Environmental Assessment Public Review Period dates.  

Smoky Mountain officials seek public review of the Wears Valley Mountain Bike Trail Systems Environmental Assessment or “EA.” The review begins October 16, 2020 and will last until Sunday, November 15, 2020. Everyone is invited to a virtual meeting on Thursday, October 29 at 5:00 p.m. to learn more about the proposals opportunities for recreation.

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Gatlinburg New Years Eve Ball Drop

The iconic Gatlinburg Space Needle is the setting for the 2020 New Years Eve celebration!
The iconic Gatlinburg Space Needle is the setting for the 2020 New Years Eve celebration!

Gatlinburg New Years Eve Ball Drop and fireworks show will occur on Thursday, December 31, 2020. Gatlinburg will ring in the new year under the cover of the iconic Gatlinburg Space Needle for its 33rd Annual New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and Fireworks Show.

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The Cataloochee Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Cataloochee is a tucked-away destination and its special beauty offers an appeal to all interests and ages. Bring blankets or folding chairs and a picnic, and set up camp for a long afternoon along the large meadow of Cataloochee Valley to watch for the appearance of the elk herd.

Elk in Cataloochee

Elk in Cataloochee Valley

Lace up those hiking boots and venture down some of the interesting trails located within the park boundaries.  Campers will be awed after sundown by the multitude of stars that are visible in the low light of this remote valley. Anglers are sure to enjoy searching out the perfect spot along a rushing creek to land an elusive trout. The equestrian set will appreciate the horse camp and the many trails available.

  • Fishing: Cataloochee Creek and all its tributaries feature an abundant wild trout population. A Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license is required within park boundaries and may be acquired at nearby communities or online from North Carolina at ncwildlife.org or in Tennessee at tn.wildlifelicense.com.
  • Camping: a 27-site primitive campground is located in the valley and is open mid-March through October for tents or RVs up to 31 feet. Group camping is available through advanced reservations. Back country camping requires  a permit. For more info, go to recreation.gov.
  • Horse Camp: reservations are required and maybe obtained by calling 877-444-677 or logging onto recreation.gov.
  • Hiking: One of the more popular trails in Cataloochee is the seven-mile loop Boogerman Trail that winds through towering old-growth forests. The Little Cataloochee Trail meanders down an old road that leads past several historical structures.

Getting There
The easiest way to reach Cataloochee is from Interstate 40. Take the North Carolina exit #20 (Maggie Valley) and turn right into Cove Creek Road.

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