Blue Ridge Parkway Wildflowers
Blue Ridge Parkway Wildflowers found in the NC High Country Region
The NC Blue Ridge Parkway is home to many unique species of flowers and shrubs that cannot be found in many other locations around the world! From Catawba Rhododendron to Fire Pink flowers, there are many natural beauties to see in this region. Here are some of the most popular Spring and Summer blooms that you may see in the area:
Bloom June-Early July
Catawba Rhododendron are native to the Appalachian Mountains. The plants can be found from Virginia to Northern Alabama (where they start blooming in May). They are a medium shrub with pink to purple flowers growing above 3000 feet on exposed ridges.
**TIP: The Rhododendron Gardens atop Roan Mountain in NC/TN are the largest natural rhododendron gardens in North America. The Rhododendron Festival held at Roan Mountain State Park, TN is always held the third weekend in June. This weekend is usually the peak bloom time for the native flowers. The festival also features crafts, food and live music.
Also called White Rhododendron, this is a large shrub with white to pink flowers. This native North American scrub grows over a wide range of elevations and can be found from Nova Scotia to North Alabama!
TIP: A great way to view the rhododendron blooms is by visiting Grandfather Mountain during the Rhododendron Ramble event held in June. The event features walks and talks with naturalist to learn the history of this beautiful plant.
The flame azalea are also a member of the rhododendron family. The flower color can range from pale yellow to scarlet red depending on how acidic the soil is. They can be found on grassy balds in the southern Appalachian Mountains from Virginia to Georgia.
Mountain Laurel flowers are round, ranging from light pink to white, and occur in clusters. The color can range from white to dark pink depending on the acid in the soil.
The plant is naturally found on rocky slopes and mountainous forest areas. The plant often grows in large thickets covering great areas of forest floor. In the NC High Country region of the Appalachian Mountains, it can become tree-sized!
A member of the native wild azalea family, the pinxter is a medium shrub with pink honeysuckle-like flowers, common at lower elevations.
FOLKLORE: The name "pinxter" comes not from its coloration but from the Dutch words "Pinxter blomachee," which relate to the fact that this is supposedly the azalea that blossoms on Pentecost, 50 days past Easter.
Bee Balm grows 2-5 feet tall and has bright red 2-inch flowers. Wild Bergamot is similar but pink.
TIP: The leaves of bee balm are used for tea. The Native Americans calls it oswego tea. Rub the leaves between your fingers and take in the peppery scent!
The largest of several trilliums found along the parkway, grows to about 15 inches. Trilliums have 3 leaves and a single 3-petal flower.
While they are beautiful to look at they are also extremely fragile, and picking them seriously injures the plant by preventing the leaf-like bracts from producing food for the next year, often effectively killing the plant and ensuring none will grow in its place.
Turks Cap Lily
This is one of only a few true lily's native to North America. The flower can be found anywhere from New Hampshire to Florida. The plants thrive in wet conditions so look for them in the shaded moist areas of the forests!
Bluets are native to North America and grow 3-6 inches tall with many small 4-petal flowers, light to dark blue. Bluets sometimes grow in large beds.
TIP: Elk Knob State Park outside of Boone, NC has some large beds of Bluets in the spring!
Also known as Catchfly due to the tiny hairs that pop out of the center, these tiny native flowers can be found in the forests.