Smoky Mountain Flower Mystery

Albert Ruth

Today, in 1892, the botanist Albert Ruth collected a plant in Sevier County that he thought was Partridge Berry.
Over 40 years later, this specimen ended up at the University of Tennessee.
The year was 1934, and the University of Tennessee’s herbarium had been destroyed in a fire, which was especially sad since the herbarium was par excellence and contained over 30,000 specimens.
But, the botanist and university professor, AJ Sharp, rose to the challenge. He put out the call for new specimens from botanists all over the globe, and they sent them.
Albert Ruth's Partridge Berry made its way to Dr. Sharp. When he saw it, Dr. Sharp immediately recognized that the Partridge Berry was not the plant that he had been sent. It was an obvious mislabel. Instead, what Sharp was looking at, was the twinflower, the flower named for Carl Linnaeus, the Linnea Borealis – a plant that is extremely delicate.
Although it can be found in Greenland and Alaska and Scandinavia, it has not been known to be found in the Smoky Mountains. And, no one has ever been able to find the spot where Ruth found this twinflower. There have been two attempts to locate it led by Dr. Peter White out of the University of North Carolina.
White cautions for anyone attempting to search for it in the great Smoky Mountains to take heed. He said the two things you need to botanize in the Great Smoky Mountains are excellent rock climbing experience and a great life insurance policy.


This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time
Linnea Borealis
Linnea Borealis

Leave a Comment