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


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. 


2016 Event Schedule (2017 will be announced soon)

Friday, May 6

5:30pm – 6:30pm

Plant Genealogy: The Origins of our Southern Blue Ridge Flora

Dr. Alan Weakley, Adjunct Associate Professor & Director, UNC Herbarium

Some millions of years ago, the following notice went out on the earthernet: “Calling all plants! Party in Highlands! All-you-can-drink rain, temperate climate, and inexhaustible supplies of acid rock! Come sink your roots in and stay as long as you like!” And here we are now; just look around! The wonderful and lush diversity of plants we see around Highlands has arrived here from diverse directions and backgrounds. Our improved knowledge of past geologic and climactic change, combined with our increasing ability to do genetic testing of the genealogy of plant species enables us to understand better when the plants we see here came to the party, and why they decided to stay.


6:30pm – 8:30pm

Plant Auctions & Reception

Live music by the Tyler Kittle Trio

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 7

10:00am – 2:00pm (approximately)

Wildflower Walks

We’ve selected five of our favorite places to discover wildflowers in the southern Appalachians:

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

Paw Paw Creek: How Geology Impacts Botany

Led by Tom Goforth, Fern Expert; and Russell Funderburk, HBS Staff Horticulturist

The soils along Paw Paw Creek, a tributary of the Eastatoe River, contain deposits of Calcium and Magnesium, which raise the pH of the soil above the regional average and greatly influence the species found. Visit both acidic and neutral terrains and see  native fern species, including the rare Narrow Glade Fern and Silvery Glade Fern, as well as many spring ephemerals. Easy to moderate.

Wildflowers of High Falls Trail

Led by Dr. Gary Wein, Executive Director, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust; and Walter Winfield, President, NC Bartram Trail Society

The High Falls trail is a perennial favorite for wildflower enthusiasts due to its profusion of wildflower variation. This walk along the banks of Shoal Creek in Glenville also offers views of two spectacular waterfalls, Rough Run, and High Falls. Known for early, mid, and late spring bloomers. Easy to moderate.

Diversity of the Chattooga River

Led by Alan Weakley, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Director, Herbarium, UNC-Chapel Hill; and Adam Bigelow, Garden Manager, Cullowhee Community Garden

Wild and Scenic is a fitting designation for the Chattooga River and its lush banks. Experience a rich mélange of native plants along one of the most diverse river gorges in North America. We will walk along the Chattooga Loop Trail and identify native plants in the context of ecological conditions. Moderate.

Pond Hollow Garden

Led by Canty Worley, Arborist and Landscape Designer; and Jennie Stowers, Education Chair, HBF

The Gregory garden is located in a rich Appalachian cove full of plant diversity. Compare planted beds with a myriad of species found on woodland trails and wetland boardwalks. Learn design tricks with native plants and how to identify not only spring wildflowers, but newly emerging summer beauties as well. Easy.