In Full Bloom: Your Ultimate Guide to the Flowering Season in Jackson County, N.C.

Ideally situated in the Western North Carolina mountains, Jackson County is home to rare and endangered species, colorful wildflowers and lush forests. Because of our elevation, we have one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the temperate world! With more than 1,500 species of flowering plants spread across 494 square miles of spectacular landscape, Jackson County offers endless opportunities to experience the season’s most picturesque blooms. We’ve created this Ultimate Guide to the Blooming Season to help you along your journey. So, grab your hiking boots and prepare to immerse yourself in nature and discover the spectacular flora that comes alive each spring! Here’s what you’ll find:

Rhododendron (March – July) – A stunning, evergreen shrub known for its brilliant blooms, Rhododendron ranges in color from pure white to deep red and purple. One of the best places to find this iconic flowering plant is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, home to a variety of Rhododendron species, including the Pinxter, Catawba and Carolina. Specifically, the Oconaluftee River Trail, Mingus Creek Trail and the Clingmans Dome Trail are popular areas to see rhododendrons in bloom during the spring and early summer.

Dutchman’s Breeches (March – June) – This wildflower is known for its delicate, fern-like leaves and unique, pantaloon-shaped flowers that resemble tiny pairs of breeches hanging upside down from a clothesline. Dutchman’s Breeches prefers moist, shady habitats, and can often be found growing in the understory of deciduous forests and along the edges of streams and creeks. Whiteside Mountain Trail is a great option for those looking to spot this plant in the wild.

Mountain Laurel (May – June) – A gorgeous, evergreen shrub known for its pink or white flowers, Mountain Laurel is one of the most beloved plants in the region. The precise timing of Mountain Laurel flowering varies year to year based on seasonal weather patterns, but you’re most likely to find them in Jackson County during May and June. Its unique, bell-shaped purple or maroon flower can be discovered along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which offers stunning views of the Appalachian Mountains. The Parkway is home to several hiking trails that wind through Mountain Laurel thickets, so don’t forget your camera!

Flame Azalea (March – June) – Known for its brilliant, flame-like blooms that range in color from yellow to orange to red, Flame Azalea knows stands apart. Native to the forests of the Southern Appalachians, the Flame Azalea typically blooms when the weather is warm and humid and in high-altitude forests and woodland meadows. Several of our hiking trails weave through where Flame Azalea is known to grow, particularly the Blue Ridge Parkway and along Whiteside Mountain. Additional locations to find this wildflower are in high elevations such as Panthertown Valley, Pinnacle Park and along the trail to High Falls.

Turk’s Cap Lilies/ Tiger Lilies (June – August) – The trumpet-shaped flowers of the Turk’s Cap Lilies are what make this perennial flowering plant distinct. Vibrant orange in color and covered in black spots (resembling the stripes of a tiger), it’s a real showstopper. Blooming later in the season than other plants, it can grow to be four to five inches in diameter. Jackson County is home to many waterfalls, which can be excellent places for Turk’s Cap Lilies to thrive. Trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway, including Black Balsam Knob (milepost 420.2) and Richland Balsam (milepost 431.4.), are also great spots to view these upside-down blooms.

One of the best ways to learn about our region’s unique flowers and plants is by taking an ecology tour with Adam Bigelow of Bigelow’s Botanical Excursions. Choose from a half-day or full-day walk, and bring the kids, too! Or, if you prefer to stroll solo, you can create your own botanical excursion by picking up the Botanical Guidebook from Highland Hiker, City Lights Bookstore or Black Balsam Outdoors.

The blooms don’t last long, so start planning your trip to Jackson County today! Visit our official Trip Planner for hiking maps as well as full details on our charming towns of Cashiers, Cherokee, Dillsboro and Sylva. When enjoying our beautiful mountains, remember to Leave No Trace and pack your camera, so that you can capture all the beautiful blooms! And don’t forget to tag us in your photos on Instagram and Facebook.

Feature photo courtesy of @spencervisual 

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