Oconee Bells

Oconee Bells
(Shortia galacifolia)

Oconee BellsA rare plant that grows along stream banks in rich woods in a very few counties in the mountains of North and South Carolina and Georgia. The low-growing perennial has glossy evergreen leaves resembling their close relative, Galax. The bell-shaped, 5 petaled flowers are about 3/4 inch long and bloom in March and April.

Known as the “plant that was lost for 100 years,” Shortia galacifolia was described in the diaries of French botanist and explorer Andre Michaux who visited Grandfather Mountain in August 1794. After discovering a dried specimen of the plant in the Paris herbarium, famed American botanist Asa Gray came to Grandfather in 1841 looking for the plant which he named for Charles Short. Although Gray tried to follow Michaux’s exact path, the rare plant eluded him. Finally, in 1877 a seventeen-year-old named George McQueen Hyams found the plant growing along a stream near Marion.

Return to the Wildflower Photo Gallery