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Pearson's Falls

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Pearson's Falls - North Carolina

Joe Kegley | E-Mail | Updated 6-29-2012

Pearson's Falls

Pearson's Falls - Joe Kegley


Located between Saluda and Tryon North Carolina is Pearson's Falls, a mecca for wildflower enthusiasts during the spring. You get a lot of bang for your buck at this location. The trail to the falls is an easy 1/4 mile hike. Along the trail during the early spring you can expect a copious distribution of blooms from a variety of species. And to top off the wildflower experience, at the end of the trail is the impressive waterfall.

Just as impressive as the wildflower display is the status of ownership and management of the property. Pearson's Falls is owned and operated by the Tryon Garden Club. And I must say, they do as good a job or better maintaining the resources comparing to what a state or national park might do. Their operation is very inspiring; the club takes a lot of pride in this enchanted landscape and it shows.

The Tryon Garden Club acquired the property in 1931. There's a rich history about the garden club's acquisition and the property's previous owner. For more information you should visit the Tryon Garden Club's website or even better purchase the booklet about the flora, fauna, and history of Pearson's Falls by Donald Culross Peattie available at the gate.

Pearson's Falls is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. At the time of this writing admission for adults (13 and above) was $5.00, ages 6-12 was $1.00, and under 6 was free. The club is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization and the money collected is used to maintain the property. Money well spent.

>Footbridge at Pearson's Falls

Footbridge at Pearson's Falls - Joe Kegley


The pilgrimage to Pearson's Falls is an annual ritual for local wildflower devotees during the early spring. Expect the early bloomers such as Trout lily and Bloodroot to begin flowering in mid-March (plus or minus a week) depending on the past winter's severity. Peak blooms for many of the other wildflowers seems to happen between the last week in March and the first week in April.

Of particular note is the abundance of Trout lilies at Pearson's Falls. Take a hike in early March and you'll find some slopes near the trail covered with the two basal (mottled green) leaves associated with this species. Come back in a week or so and you'll be treated to an impressive nodding yellow flower flecked with crimson. If the plant is receiving enough light you might find the petals curved backwards exposing the reproductive parts of the flower. It's a welcome sight after a long winter.

Pearson's Falls has some of the healthiest looking Dutchman's Breeches you can find if you get to them during their peak. While the clumps of Dutchman's Breeches are not necessarily as large as what you might find elsewhere, their thick green mat of leaves make a wonderful backdrop for the white tooth-like flowers.

Wildflowers observed during the couple of visits I made to Pearson's Falls include the following: Bloodroot, Cutleaf Toothwort, Dutchman's Breeches, Dwarf Crested Iris, Eastern Blue Star, Foamflower, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Large-flowered Bellwort, Mayapple, Oconee Bell, Rue Anemone, Sharp-lobed Hepatica, Showy Orchis, Star Chickweed, Large-flowered Trillium, Sweet Betsy Trillium, Sweet White Trillium, Trout lily, Canada Violet, Common Blue Violet, Halberd-leaved Violet, Virginia Spring Beauty, Wild Geranium, Wild Ginger, and Wood Anemone.

>Cutleaf Toothwort at Pearson's Falls

Cutleaf Toothwort at Pearson's Falls - Joe Kegley

Dutchman's Breeches, Pearson's Falls

Dutchman's Breeches, Pearson's Falls - Joe Kegley

Canada Violet, Pearson's Falls

Canada Violet, Pearson's Falls - Joe Kegley

Wood Anemone, Pearson's Falls

Wood Anemone, Pearson's Falls - Joe Kegley

Virginia Spring Beauty, Pearson's Falls

Virginia Spring Beauty, Pearson's Falls - Joe Kegley

Jack-in-the-pulpit, Pearson's Falls

Jack-in-the-pulpit, Pearson's Falls - Joe Kegley

Trout Lily, Pearson's Falls

Trout Lily, Pearson's Falls - Joe Kegley

Trillium grandiflorum, Pearson's Falls

Trillium grandiflorum, Pearson's Falls - Joe Kegley

Sweet White Trillium, Pearson's Falls

Sweet White Trillium, Pearson's Falls - Joe Kegley

One species that stood out from the rest was the rare Oconee Bell. I was surprised to see those glossy leaves (similar to those of the Galax) and the 5 petaled bell-shaped flowers at Pearson's Falls. In fact, the surprise prompted an email exchange with the Tryon Garden Club. The response from the club informed me they didn't believe the Oconee Bells were originally from the area but were planted there a number of years ago, if not many years ago. Because the environment at the falls matches the habitat necessary for Oconee Bells, the plant has been allowed to take its course.

While not a wildflower, but interesting nonetheless, the Walking Fern is also a resident at Pearson's Falls. This fern likes shaded moss covered limestone and other outcrops which are moist with a basic pH. The common name is derived because the slender leaves root at the tip and produce new plants ... thus "walking".

Walking Fern, Pearson's Falls

Walking Fern, Pearson's Falls - Joe Kegley

Oconee Bell, Pearson's Falls

Oconee Bell, Pearson's Falls - Joe Kegley

>Louisiana Waterthrush, Pearson's Falls

Louisiana Waterthrush, Pearson's Falls - Joe Kegley

Photography Perspective

Pearson's Falls is a destination for wildflowers. I suggest a macro lens in the 100 - 200mm range for the flowers, and a 24 - 70mm lens for the scenic shots, depending on what you want to accomplish. I used a Sigma 150mm macro lens for the wildflowers images on this page and a Nikon 24-70mm lens for the waterfall and bridge images.

Because of the hours of operation (gate opens at 10:00am Mon-Sat and 12:00pm on Sundays), when you find the wildflowers you wish to photograph you may have some harsh lighting from the overhead sun. I strongly suggest taking 1-stop and 2-stop collapsible diffusers. Be sure your diffusers are wide enough to block the sun from the wildflower and the background. Scenic shots of the waterfall are best done on drizzly days with thick cloud cover.

Be sure to use a tripod and a remote shutter release.

Gear/equipment Suggestions

  • Food and Water - When the wildflowers are good, they'll be really good. Expect to spend a minimum of 3 to 4 hours photographing up and down the trail. You can either eat at your car or use the provided picnic tables.

  • Rain Gear - If you wish to photograph the waterfall, you'll probably want to go on a drizzly/misty day. It would probably be a good idea to have some plastic trash bags handy to cover up your camera gear if necessary.

  • Camera Gear - Camera, macro lens somewhere in the 100-200mm range, tripod, remote shutter release, spare battery, flash cards, backpack, 1 and 2-stop diffusers. Optional - reflector or flash, 24-70mm and filters if you wish to photograph the waterfall.

Location and Points of Interest

Pearson's Falls is located on Pearson Falls Rd off of Route 176, It's 4 miles north of Tryon NC or 3 miles south of Saluda NC.

2748 Pearson Falls Rd
Saluda, NC

Pearson's Falls (Google interactive map)

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