It’s the Remarkable Rhododendron Ramble!

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Article Published: May. 17, 2012 | Modified: Jun. 3, 2012
It’s the Remarkable Rhododendron Ramble!

Catawba rhododendrons are already blooming at the lower elevations of Grandfather Mountain, around MacRae Meadows. Due to this year’s unseasonably mild winter and spring, many of the mountain’s plants are blooming early. 
Photos by Helen Moss Davis

The showy rose-lavender blooms that decorate Grandfather’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 Grandfather Mountain’s naturalists, will celebrate this memorable sight June 2 to 17 at 1 p.m. daily, and the guides are looking forward to sharing the beauty of this year’s blooms with park visitors.

“I am really excited to show guests this wonderful flower and plant, as it is very important to the mountain,” said Katie Gray, chief naturalist. “The history about Andre Michaux and the plant’s discovery is really interesting.”

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 holds 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 variety 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,” Gray said. “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.

The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation established to preserve Grandfather Mountain, operate the nature park sustainably in the public interest, provide an exceptional experience for guests, and inspire them to be good stewards of the earth’s resources. For more information, visit or call (800) 468-7325.

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