Late winter finds me pulling out my plant guidebooks, flipping through looking for inspiration. Last year was my hunt for the yellow lady slipper orchid and a "mystery plant" (turned out to be Wood's bunchflower). This year I decided would be the year for Shortia galacifolia, commonly known as the Oconee Bell.
It began the year after I moved here. My friends would ask, "Have you seen the Oconee Bell? The trail guide mentions this section has Oconee Bells, let's keep an eye out." But I never quite get the timing right. And I never knew the fascinating botanical story behind this remarkable plant. This year would be different because I'd become captivated by the story of the Oconee Bell. And I'd start my quest of it earlier in the season. And I'd stay off the high mountaintops of NC, which has historically been where people go wrong finding Shortia.
The quest was on!