by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.
One of the things I consider a “natural wonder” of Mariton is the blooming of the Rhododendrons (Rhododendron maximum). This native “rhody” holds soils on the steep slopes below the Main and Chimney Rock Trails. Besides being steep this section has a northeasterly aspect making it a little cooler and darker. The rhodies love it. It is tough to get a photo that shows all the blossoms on the hillside, but it is spectacular in person.
The native doesn’t bloom until late June, unlike the rhododendrons planted in yards . Right now there are still lots of flower buds that haven’t opened, so I think they will look nice into early July. Every year I anticipate the blooming. How many blossoms will open each year is unpredictable (at least for me). I have been watching these trees for over 20 years and still haven’t figured out why some years every tree is covered with flowers, and other years there are only a few blossoms scattered across a forest full of Rhododendrons. Another reason it is a natural wonder for me.
If you visit to behold the spectacle I recommend walking out the Woods Trail to the Main Trail, and then follow the Chimney Rock Trail for a ways. You will be able to put your face right into the blossoms without having to stray off the trail, where you might damage other wildflowers. If you don’t mind the climb, walk down (you will have to walk back uphill) the River Lookout Trail for a view of a hillside of rhodies in bloom.