Patches of bright purple petals are beginning to appear in the lower elevations of Grandfather Mountain and the attraction’s naturalists are preparing for the “Remarkable Rhododendron Ramble” June 1-13.
“We are already seeing blooms in the lower portions of the mountain,” said Chief Naturalist Jesse Pope. “This spring has been warm and moist which has provided great conditions for Catawba rhododendron. If these conditions persist we can expect Rhododendron to be in bloom through the middle of June.”
The deep-pink blossoms of the Catawba rhododendron are the herald of the mountain summer, and Grandfather’s knowledgeable guides are looking forward to sharing the excitement of this year’s blooms with park visitors. The naturalists have planned guided walks and other activities to honor the native Rhododendron catawbiense and educate guests on how the plant fits into the important ecological communities at Grandfather Mountain.
“Grandfather’s native rhododendron has quite an interesting history,” said Pope. “The plant was discovered in this area in 1789 by the great French explorer Andre Michaux, and five years later the explorer hiked to the top of Grandfather Mountain while the plant was in bloom.”
Catawba rhododendron also hold special significance in the botanical world. “Thousands of hybrid rhododendron were all propagated from some combination of three rhododendron varieties,” Pope explained. “The Catawba rhododendron that is native to Grandfather Mountain and Western North Carolina is one of the three original species.”
Catawba rhododendron blooms at successive elevations on Grandfather Mountain throughout the month of June, sometimes a little earlier as it has this year. It first appears at overlooks near the entrance of the attraction and arrives at the high peaks near The Mile High Swinging Bridge two to three weeks later. The wide range of elevations means guests have a longer window of opportunity to see the rhododendron blooming on Grandfather.
Grandfather Mountain is a globally recognized nature preserve famous for its 360-degree vistas, native wildlife habitats and Mile High Swinging Bridge. The attraction is located on US Highway 221, two miles north of Linville, NC, and one mile south of the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 305.
All Rhododendron Ramble activities are included in attraction admission. For more information phone 800-468-7325 or plan a trip at www.grandfather.com.
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