A cool, drizzling rain didn't stop amateur photographer Eric King from making it out to Devils Fork State Park this spring to catch the rare Oconee Bell in full bloom. The delicate bell-shaped wildflower, found only in a few isolated locations in the southern Appalachians, sticks around for a short two to three weeks from mid-March to early April.
"I had planned to come out last year, but never made it," said King, a member of the Carolinas Nature Photographers Association. "This year, I decided I was going to get here no matter what."
Using an umbrella to shield his camera equipment, King squatted close to the ground to capture the Oconee Bell, a white and yellow blossom with red stem and red-tinged serrated leaves. The low-growing plant does best in the wild in moist woods along streams. At Devils Fork State Park, it can be found thriving in clumps along the creek winding through the park's Oconee Bells Nature Trail, an easy, one-mile loop that starts at the edge of the parking lot behind the park office.
"They usually all pop at the same time," Assistant Park Manager Jim Stanton said. "We get a lot of people who come out here just to see the Bells."
I rather enjoyed the soft rain that was trickling off the hardwoods as I hiked the Oconee Bells Trail. It was just Mother Nature doing her part to awaken any dawdling Bells still waiting to bloom.
Want to learn more about the Oconee Bells? Check out the Devils Fork State Park webpage at www.southcarolinaparks.com or call (864) 944-2639.