The Oconee Bell

By Bob Grytten | Mar 25, 2013
Photo by: Bob Grytten Early morning photo of the rare Oconee Bell in flower.

The Oconee Bell, Shortia galadifolia, is a rare flower of the southern Appalachians found only in a few locations in the mountains of the Carolinas. This photograph was made at the Corneille Bryan Nature Garden at Lake Junaluska.


It is famed for being a long lost plant of the Carolinas. For many years after Andre Michaux discovered it in 1788, the specimen, which had fruits but no flowers, languished in a Paris herbarium. Asa Gray discovered the herbarium sheet and named the plant, Shortia for Dr. Shortia, but was not able to find the plant growing in the wild, despite much effort and trips to the originally discovered areas of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Five decades passed before any botanist laid eyes on a live plant again, reportedly near Marion, NC - then later in the area near the Horsepasture River, in Transylvania County, NC


And, after talking with my photographer friends Sara Evans and Chuck Dayton, I learned that Sara’s mother, Maxilla Everett Evans, was responsible for recovering patches of Oconee Bell from construction sites in Transylvania County and eventually providing it for The Corneille Bryan Nature Garden right here in Haywood County. This area is maintained by volunteers which have a plant sale every year as a fund raiser. If you are interested in helping or want more information about the plant sale at Lake Junaluska let us know and we will pass your name along.


Please do not try to transplant native wildflowers to your backyards or fields. Less than 5% survive. As an example,  Shortia requires the high content of coarse acid leaf mould and some sharp sand for the plant to grow. It is better to buy from a reliable nursery that has propagated plants and are in the same climate as yours. Unfortunately, our list is in the process of being updated. If you know of nurseries that propagate their own natives in our area we would appreciate hearing from you. Contact Bob Grytten at bobgry@aol.com. Other articles on wildflower photography can be found at lensluggers.com.

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