Wildflower Whimsy

May 5 & 6, 2017

A light exists in spring

Not present on the year

At any other period.

When March is scarcely here

A color stands abroad

On solitary hills

That silence cannot overtake,

But human nature feels. 

-Emily Dickinson

Register Here 

Spring Wildflowers

As the ground thaws and cool breezes still rattle bare tree limbs, ephemeral wildflowers erupt from the forest floor and herald the beginning of spring. Spring ephemerals are known for their remarkable beauty, sweet fragrance, and their fleeting season. These flowers must bloom, fruit, and go to seed before the canopy fills with fresh new leaves and blocks out the sun, yet they remain a vital food source for emerging pollinators. Many of these flowers will complete this rapid cycle in a matter of days or weeks before retreating back below the leaf litter where thy will wait for the ground to warm, freeze, and thaw again before re-emerging next spring. Curious about the complex interactions between these plants and their environment? Join us for Wildflower Whimsy to observe these remarkable plants and learn more about their diminutive world.


Highlands Biological Foundation

All proceeds from Wildflower Whimsy go towards supporting the mission of the Highlands Biological Station, which is to foster research and education focused on the rich natural heritage of the southern Appalachians. These funds support the maintenance and expansion of the Garden, programming and exhibit improvements at the Nature Center, and research and education through the Laboratory.



Members: $75 for both days

Non-members: $100 for both days

Ticket includes a cocktail buffet, garden tours, auction #, and seat during the lecture on Friday night; and a boxed lunch and guided wildflower walk on Saturday. Wildflower Whimsy is an outdoor event and will take place behind the Nature Center (930 Horse Cove Rd). The lecture will be held inside the Nature Center and there will be complementary wine and beer available after the lecture. 

Register Here 

2017 Event Schedule

Friday, May 5

5:30pm – 6:30pm

After the Fires: Fire Ecology in the Blue Ridge

Gary Kauffman, Botanist and Ecologist, U.S. Forest Service

This fall wildfires ravaged the drought-stricken landscape,  which has many wondering how will this impact our favorite wildflowers and plants? How did the intensity of each fire affect the various plant communities in the area? Dr. Gary Kauffman, expert botanist and ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, will answer all of these questions and more in his lecture about how fires can help and hurt our favorite natural areas. Fire has been used as a tool by humans for thousands of years to manipulate the landscape. The fires have been extinguished, the smoke no longer lingers in the air, but many questions remain.


6:30pm – 8:30pm

Plant Auctions & Reception

Directly contribute to the Highlands Biological Foundation by bidding on carefully curated plants during our live and silent auctions. Enjoy the spring evening with a complementary wine reception, cocktail buffet, live music, and an ephemeral light display in the Botanical Garden. Before the auctions, tour the Garden with station staff and other Garden enthusiasts.


Saturday, May 6

10:00am – 2:00pm (approximately)

Wildflower Walks

This year we are focusing on areas recently affected by wildfire in the southern Appalachians:

(approximate times: 10am-2pm) Bring water, sun & rain protection, notepad, camera, backpack to carry lunch

Singed But Not Forgotten: Wayah Bald After the Fire (FULL)

Led by Steve Norman, Research Ecologist, US Forest Service and Dr. James T. Costa, Executive Director and Professor, Highlands Biological Station and Western Carolina University

See how wildflowers emerge from wildfire on this visit to Wayah Bald with ecologist Steve Norman. Learn about the ecological role of fire in our landscape. Prescribed fire has often been used as a management tool; learn how the wildfire that affected the area this past fall will meet or disrupt management plans. See how native plants and wildflowers have responded to the fire. Easy.

Wildflowers After the Fire: Cliffside Lake

Led by Dr. Sarah Workman, Associate Director, Highlands Biological Station and Adam Bigelow, Garden Manager, Cullowhee Community Garden

Cliffside Lake is one of our favorite spring wildflower spots. This recreational site experienced a moderate intensity burn this past fall. Join us to hike on a paved trail with the occasional excursion to view a wildflower. The trail is 0.75 miles long. In addition to the discussion on fire ecology, we will witness how this area has responded to the burn. Easy.

Burning on the Bartram Trail: Jones Gap to White Rock

Led by Dr. Gary Kauffman, Botanist and Ecologist, U.S. Forest Service

Jones Gap, known for its biological diversity and abundant spring wildflowers, experienced a low-intensity burn that began on October 29, 2016. This portion of the Bartram Trail offers a wide variety of high elevation spring wildflowers.  It winds its way through rhododendron tunnels and rock outcrops on the way to White Rock Mountain. Join us to see how the fire affected the abundant wildflower communities. Moderate-difficult.

Weeds and Wildcrafting Workshop

Led by Clarke and Heather Ball, Peak Soil

Have you ever wondered about the many plants in your backyard that could be eaten or used to treat medical issues? Join Clarke and Heather Ball for an educational walk through the Highlands Botanical Garden to discover what food grows in your backyard and how you can utilize it. Learn how to use these native plants in salads, teas, and tinctures, and enjoy the fruits of your labor in the beautiful setting of the Botanical Garden. Easy.