Marie McAden



Rhododendrons in Bloom in SC Mountains!

Posted 5/10/2010 9:34:00 PM
Eureka! I finally caught a rhododendron in full bloom. As many years as I have been hiking in the upcountry, I had never seen the mountain shrub blossom in all its glory. It seems I always missed the blooming season, which can run from mid-April to late June depending on the species and elevation.

Now I know what all the fuss is about. I can only imagine the extraordinary sensuous pleasure of walking through a botanical tunnel of sweet-smelling rhodies.

I came across a large bush of purple blossom rhododendrons this weekend while checking out the visitors’ overlook at Duke Power’s Bad Creek Hydroelectric Station in the Jocassee Gorges. The blooming shrub was planted next to a row of white azaleas along a short path that led to a gazebo.

As it turns out, it’s the rare Catawba Rhododendron, which grows naturally in South Carolina within a very limited range in Greenville and Pickens counties.

Want to see blooming rhododendrons on your next visit to South Carolina? Caesars Head State Park interpretive ranger Tim Lee offered some tips on when and where to go.

* The short-leaf variety starts blooming mid-April in lower elevations like Jones Gap State Park and the base of Table Rock; the first week of May at higher elevations like Caesars Head.

* The large-leaf variety starts blooming mid-May at lower elevations (1,000 feet); late June at higher elevations (3,000 feet).

“The general rule is that for every thousand feet of elevation, they’ll bloom a week later,” Lee said.
Oh, and the view of Lake Jocassee from the overlook is fabulous. Stop by next time you’re in the area. Duke keeps the site open to the public year-round from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.