Red in wildflowers is striking! My #10 choice – the Cardinal Flower – is a prime example and as I push into my top five, the first of this group has always been a top contender and could easily be a #1.
In early April, when cruising down the Little River Gorge, every year, as I round a particular curve I suddenly get hit with a red “Stop Here!” light. Like a red flare or a brilliant flashing searchlight, the Fire Pink (Silene virginica) broadcasts its beacon for all to stop and enjoy one of nature’s finest displays. Each flower is about an inch and a half across with five thin, clefted petals. How, and why, this relavively small flower seeks me out of the dozens of other Park visitors is a question I ask myself every Spring, but it does and I stop. I am never disappointed.
The gorge has the Little River on the right as you descend and a 30+ foot vertical cliff on the left.
The Spring rains sprout drips and occasionally miniscule flows over and from the rocky cliff providing a perfect habitat for the Fire Pink, Columbine, Purple Phacelia and perhaps a half dozen less showy wildflowers varieties. None but the Fire Pink are noticed until your eyes adjust to the scarlet flashes and then slowly the entire community of wildflowers unveils itself and wonder continues.
I have tried to relocate several Fire Pink clumps from the North Georgia mountains to my home garden but the transplants slowly fade and after a year or two disappear entirely. You can reconstruct the lighting and moisture but not the microcommunity of bacteria and nematodes essential to Fire Pink and most wildflower survival. Therefore, despite the high number of wildflower types in the Smokies and Appalachians, it is a poor gamble to try and relocate them; plus, it is illegal to remove any wildflower from a national or state park. So, enjoy them in place.