Marie McAden



Oconee Bell Fest celebrates rare wildflower

Posted 3/12/2013 10:31:00 AM

The rare Oconee Bell — the delicate bell-shaped wildflower found only in isolated locations in the southern Appalachians — is finally getting its due. A group of devoted fans is hosting a celebration in its honor.

The First Annual Oconee Bell Fest takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 16 at Devils Fork State Park — one of the few spots in the Jocassee Gorges featuring the kind of moist wooded environment necessary for the flower to thrive.

Upstate master naturalists will be leading small groups of visitors on educational tours through the park’s Oconee Bell Nature Trail, an easy, one-mile loop boasting large colonies of the wildflower. The walks will be offered every 30 minutes.

For just two to three weeks from mid-March to early April, the low-growing plant produces a white and yellow blossom with red stem and red-tinged serrated leaves. The Oconee Bell does best in the wild in moist woods along streams. At Devils Fork State Park, it can be found thriving in clumps along the creek winding through the nature trail.

Sponsored by Friends of Jocassee, the event also will include bluegrass music performed by YAM (Young Appalachian Musicians), a silent auction and a book signing featuring three local authors who have written books about the Jocassee area.

An Upstate Boy Scout troop also will be on hand selling homemade vegetable soup and cornbread.

The event is free, but there is a $2 park admission fee for anyone 16 and older. Got questions? Email friendsofjocassee@gmail.com.

Devils Fork State Park is located on Lake Jocassee off S.C. 11. Click here or call (864) 944-2639 for directions or more information.