This is the Blue Ridge Parkway Wildflower Report for the middle of May, 2012. All of the Parkway Campgrounds and Picnic Areas opened their gates on May 11, so it should be a great time to visit.
The Memorial Day Weekend was beautiful weather-wise and the blooms are certainly cooperating!
Beginning on the north end of the Parkway, Catawba Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel are in full bloom but are fading fast. Rhododendron are particularly good at Milepost 9-10. Mountain Laurel is best found even further north of that between Milepost 2 and 5.
You can also find good displays of Mountain Laurel from Mileposts 29-60, which takes you down into the James River area. Golden Ragwort is especially pretty with beautiful patches on the Humpback Mountain Farm at Milepost 5.8. Blackberries are past full bloom everywhere.
Rhododendron display across Apple Orchard Mountain from Milepost 75-81 is nice. When driving from Roanoke through the Rocky Knob area going south look for Rhododendron, Flame and Pink Azalea that are still out, and Mountain Laurel also nicely in bloom.
Fields of Golden Alexander and Ox-Eye Daisy, Phlox, and patches of Fire Pink are nicely visible along the roadsides. Rhododendron are nicely on display as you move into North Carolina through the Doughton Park area.
The Rhododendron at Craggy Gardens, north of Asheville, is beginning to show nicely—probably not peak yet. The high elevations south of Asheville have more Mountain Laurel than Rhododendron in bloom right now. Wild Geranium, Coreopsis, and Columbine are visible in many areas.
The Parkway is a beautiful place to spend this time of year but it’s not like most other roads so take in some special precautions as necessary while driving. Above all, slow down, take your time, and use the overlooks to let traffic that backs up behind you get by. As we often tell visitors, enjoy the view, but watch the road!