As winter comes to an end the first blush of color begins to show on the still-leafless deciduous trees, showing up in the bark of the distal small branches coming to life after their winter sleep. With the immense biodiversity in Great Smoky Mountain National Park–the largest number of plant species in any park on the continent–the palette of colors, though soft and pastel, is rich and varied, creating fascinating visual patterns which become softer and less distinct as the mountain ridges fade into the distance. This fading of color with distance is amplified by the “smoke” which gives the mountains their name–an atmospheric effect from the exhalations of the massive forests. The water vapors from the trees contain turpenes and other substances which interact with the atmosphere to produce this smoky looking haze. As spring appears, this initial blush will be replaced by the rich spring green of emerging leaves and the colors of the many types of flowers in the tree canopy, producing a different but even more intense pastel patterned landscape. Click on image to enlarge.