"O" is for Oconee bell

Mar 19, 2020

Credit SC Public Radio

"O" is for Oconee bell. The Oconee bell (Shortia galacifolia) is a small, evergreen species related to Galax, with white flowers produced in March. It was discovered by French botanist André Michaux in 1787 in the mountains of South Carolina along the Keowee River near the present Jocassee Dam. For decades botanists unsuccessfully tried to find the plant in the wild, but it remained “lost” until the late nineteenth century when it was discovered in McDowell County, North Carolina. The plant immediately gained fame and has maintained its popularity ever since. Approximately sixty percent of the known populations were destroyed by the construction of Lakes Jocassee and Keowee. It currently grows along stream banks and hillsides in Oconee, Pickens, and Greenville Counties in South Carolina and is also known in small populations in North Carolina and Georgia. Today the Oconee bell is considered a rare plant.