April showers brought even more May showers this year, so you may have missed your chance to discover the early white, red, and yellow blooms of spring. Luckily, wildflower season is not yet over in Western North Carolina.
The Blue Ridge Mountains rise above our communities from 1,200 to more than 6,000 feet in elevation. Because of the wide range in elevations, wildflowers appear weeks and weeks apart as you travel from base to peak. In June, it is the perfect season to spot flame azaleas, white and purple rhododendron, goat’s beard and turkey beard, speckled wood lily, Gray’s lily, and more.
Here’s how to get your flower fix and find summer wildflowers in the mountains.
Search High along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Mountain Peaks
Along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, Mount Mitchell and Craggy Gardens offer places to see wildflowers without even getting out of your car.
Located near Burnsville, Mount Mitchell is the highest peak in eastern mainland North America (6,684 feet in elevation). Within a short trail walk or hike from the observation deck, you can “spy some delicate fire pinks” or many of the hundreds of other flower species dotting the surrounding mountains.
The Craggy Gardens trail, located at milepost 361.2 on the Parkway, offers incredible sunset views, making it a popular destination. In June, you’re sure to have some privacy among the twisted rhododendron vines and high-elevation mosses.
Also topping 6,000 feet in elevation, Roan Mountain within the Pisgah National Forest, is famous for its wildflowers and rare plant species. Most striking is the Catawba rhododendron, which bursts with pink and lavender blooms well into late June. Pink Beds, near Sliding Rock, loops you through a number of pink wildflowers, including mountain laurel and rhododendron, blanketing the relatively flat valley.
Did you know that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a world-renowned nature preserve? The park has more than 1,660 species of flowering plants alone, more than any other national park on the continent. For a great wildflower walk within walking distance of easy parking, try the easy, three-mile, riverside Oconaluftee River Trail.
Search Low at Area Botanical Gardens
No matter the time of year, native and non-native plant species can be enjoyed at local botanical gardens.
Walkable from downtown, the Botanical Gardens at Asheville are located adjacent to the UNC Asheville campus. Stroll the half-mile loop to see dozens of plants native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Although their peak flower season runs April through mid-May, there is almost always something blooming in this well-kept, 10-acre garden. Through the summer, enjoy the blooms of native berry bushes and goldenrods.
The North Carolina Arboretum is located south of downtown Asheville in the Bent Creek community and immediately accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Their 65 acres of cultivated gardens and groomed trails feature some of the most beautiful, botanically-diverse plants in the region. In addition, the arboretum hosts plenty of pollinators and a permanent bonsai exhibit. Their National Native Azalea Collection, part of the Nationally Accredited Plant Collections™ and pictured above, is “a woodland garden with azaleas representing nearly every species native to the U.S., along with many natural hybrids and selections.”
Begin Your Search Today
Though Western North Carolina’s wildflower season runs well into the summer, it won’t last forever. Begin your search for native mountain wildflowers today.
Share your photos and favorite spots with us in the comments below.
Photo NC Aboretum