During the first week of June, parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains tend to look a little more pink and purple — especially on Grandfather Mountain.
The pastel hues come courtesy of rhododendron blooms, which tend to flourish at higher elevations and cooler temperatures.
Grandfather Mountain is celebrating the rhododendron — and the forthcoming arrival of summer — with the Remarkable Rhododendron Ramble, a series of guided strolls that allows guests to observe the blooms and learn about their history, attributes and roles they play in the mountain’s ecological communities.
The programs, which take place at 2 p.m. daily May 29 through June 6, are free with regular park admission.
“Few plants signify summer in the High Country quite like the rhododendron,” said Frank Ruggiero, director of marketing and communications for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the Linville, N.C., nature park.
“Rhododendron season is just starting, which means summer is almost here,” said Lauren Farrell, interpretation and education programs coordinator for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. “The rhododendron’s colors are most extraordinary in the mountains, so the guests who visit during this time are sure in for a treat.”
About the Rhodo
“Four species of rhododendron grow wild on Grandfather Mountain, and three of them could be in bloom for this year’s Rhododendron Ramble,” Farrell said.
Flame azaleas (R. zalendulaceum) range from yellow to orange, peach or red in color and can be seen at the mountain’s main entrance gate and at Split Rock in late May through July.
Catawba rhododendron (R. catawbiense) is in bloom from early to mid-June, depending on elevation. Probably the most well-known of the rhododendron, their deep purple blooms will frame most of the trails in natural splendor.
Rosebay rhododendron (R. maximum), with its very light pink flowers, is the last to bloom in late June and may be in its early stages during the Rhododendron Ramble.
Many rhododendrons are already blooming at lower elevations in the High Country, but the wide range of elevation available on Grandfather Mountain — a nearly 1,000-foot change from base to peak — provides viewers with a longer window of opportunity to see the rhododendron in bloom.
And now, Grandfather Mountain is operating under its extended summer hours from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. (with ticket sales ending at 5:30 p.m.). Guests must now book their visit in advance at www.grandfather.com.
The nonprofit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call 800-468-7325, or visit www.grandfather.com to plan a trip.