By Carson Feather Whitmore
This native annual flower appears in the early spring and really blooms brilliantly from May through September. Houstonia purpurea is its scientific name, “purpurea” describing it’s purple color (Tiny Bluet (Houstonia pusilla) describes “pusilla” or “insignificant”). While the Roan Mountain Bluet may be small in size, its brilliant blue color is a sight not to be missed. The Roan Mountain Bluets are known for their purple-reddish color and small oval leaves. Bluets are ground cover or mat species and the Roan Mountain Bluet is found in it’s unique high elevation habitat (4,600-6,200ft) on rocky exposures in the northern counties of western NC.
Each year, bees, beetles, flies, ants and other insects are drawn to the sweet smelling nectar and help to pollinate these brilliant flowers. If you look closely, you’ll see a bright colors and stamen around the center. This “eye” draws in pollinators (or curious naturalists) to the pollen-covered stamens.
In the spring and summer, keep an eye out along trails for these special species. You’re likely to find the lush but delicate flowers growing near Roan Mountain in the high elevations of Western North Carolina (Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga Counties). Tread lightly and be gentle because these special flowers are endangered and can be easily disturbed.
Roan Mountain Bluets are listed as Endangered and are threatened due to development on private land and sometimes the populations can be trampled on cliffs or trails on public land. Wild South, ENO and Footsloggers are proud partners that support the protection of areas necessary for species like Roam Mountain Bluet. Practice your skills of Leave No Trace, be mindful of where you pitch a tent and step foot, and be aware of the amazing bluets beneath you. By sleeping in an ENO hammock, you’ll definitely tread more lightly, and stop in to see our friends at Footsloggers in the High Country who can direct you to some of these wild trails in search of bluets and other flowers. Though tiny, Roan Mountain Bluets are a part of our special ecosystem and with we work steadfast to sustain a lasting legacy of wild places and wild things like this tiny purple friend of ours!