The showy rose-lavender blooms that decorate Grandfather Mountain’s slopes and indicate the beginning of another breathtaking summer on the mountain have arrived early this year. The mild winter that brought an early advent for other floral mountain displays will likely move this year’s spectacular showcase of rhododendron on the Mountain forward as well.
The “Remarkable Rhododendron Ramble” hosted by the attraction’s naturalists will celebrate this memorable sight June 2-17 at 1 p.m. daily. Grandfather’s knowledgeable guides are looking forward to sharing the beauty of this year’s blooms with park visitors.
The naturalists have planned guided walks to honor the native Catawba Rhododendron and educate guests on how the plant fits into the important ecological communities at Grandfather Mountain.
Found throughout the southern Appalachia, Catawba Rhododendron also hold special significance in the botanical world. It is among only four original species of rhododendron that have been used to cultivate thousands of hybrids. The Catawba Rhododendron covers more than 1,000 feet in elevation from MacRae Meadows to MacRae Peak where it reaches 5,845 feet. The wide range of elevation provides guests with a longer window of opportunity to see the rhododendron blooming on Grandfather. It typically first appears at overlooks near the entrance of the attraction in late May and arrives at the higher peaks near The Mile High Swinging Bridge by the end of June.
Due to this year’s unseasonably warm weather, blooms can already be found around MacRae Meadows. Staff naturalists may plan rhododendron-focused programs earlier than June 2 if the blooms are widespread late May.
“For each Rhodo Ramble we’ll lead guests on a short walk, teach them how to identify the differences between species, take pictures and discuss the vivid colors of this stunning plant,” said Gray. “Information boards in the Nature Museum and at the Entrance Gate will direct guests to where the ramble will begin.” All Rhododendron Ramble activities are included in the regular attraction admission.