Gray’s Lily, Roan Mountain

One of the highlights of the 2018 Highlands-Ecuador course was Roan Mountain, straddling the NC-TN border.  The Roan massif is home to the largest of the southern Appalachian grassy balds, unique high-elevation communities thought to have formed through a combination of climate and mega-herbivores.  Roan is also home to many botanical rarities, including the fabulous Gray’s Lily (Lilium grayi) pictured here.  It is fitting that this lily honoring the eminent 19th century botanist Asa Gray, of Harvard, abounds at Roan—a place Gray considered “without doubt the most beautiful mountain east of the Rockies,” and one of his favorite places to botanize.