For the love of rhododendrons
Published 10:20 am Monday, June 22, 2015
At Carver’s Gap, on the top of Roan Mountain, the world’s largest natural rhododendron garden is at its peak.
The word ‘rhododendron’ is derived from the Greek language and means “rose tree.” However, the plants look more like bushes than trees.
The plants, with their large bunches of flowers, paint the mountainside a brilliant pink. Each bush, which can hold up to 100 clusters of flowers, are rich in color and are an eyecatching attraction for many tourists making their way through the Roan Mountain area in mid to late June.
Rhododendrons are mainly found in Asia, but are widespread throughout the Southern Appalachian mountains. For the rhododendrons to thrive, they require the right combination of elevation, climate, precipitation and soil.
The rhododendrons in Roan Mountain are a part of the Rhododendron catawbiense species, which is named after the Catawba River in North Carolina. The bushes that have evergreen leaves spread out over 600 acres of the Roan Mountain mountainside.
The species that make up the gardens in Roan Mountain are native to the eastern United States, and are mostly found in the southern Appalachian Mountains.
The garden is so beloved by Roan Mountain locals that there is a festival dedicated to the abundant plants.
This Saturday and Sunday, the Roan Mountain Citizens Club is holding its 69th annual Rhododendron Festival.
The festival features 100 craft and food booths, but the main event of the festival is a trip to the top of Roan Mountain to the celebrated Rhododendron Gardens.
The festival runs from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.