Although the mountain laurel is found all over the eastern United States, in the American southeast and especially along the Southern Appalachian mountains, this plant, which is a mere flowering evergreen shrub elsewhere, can become the size of a tree in Tennessee.
Throughout May and June, this plant puts forth a magnificent flowering display, which the folks up in Morgan County, Tennessee, had the wisdom to commemorate for the entire state with a festival.
Officially dubbed the Tennessee Mountain Laurel Festival, this event is held every third Saturday in May at the Courthouse Square in Wartburg, Tennessee. (For those getting to town with a GPS, enter 415 Kingston Street, Wartburg, TN)
The downtown portion of events include all of the classic festival fun with craft and food vendors, antique car shows, a birding adventure, horse and buggy rides, live bluegrass, country and rock n' roll entertainment, a mountain bike ride, a quilt show and a kids zone where a whole range of activities have been set up just for your little ones. And that's just if you stay in town.
Now, mountain laurels will be blooming all up and down the Southern Appalachian spine this month, but Wartburg is particularly well-situated to play host for an event centered on them.
Lying on the Cumberland Plateau's eastern escarpment, Morgan County is home to or near an incredible number of state and nationally protected areas, most of which will feature designated mountain laurel walking trails, specifically chosen so that hikers can enjoy the scenic beauty of a Southern Appalachian spring and, of course, the mountain laurels.
The natural areas partnered with the festival for the designated mountain laurel walking trails include Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail, Frozen Head State Park, Lone Mountain State Forest, Obed Wild & Scenic River, Pickett State Park, Rugby State Natural Area and Rugby Big South Fork Trails. And remember, these blooms will be vibrant all throughout May and into June, so if you can't make the official festival, remember Morgan County as the spot to see mountain laurels in their full spring beauty.
*All photos credited to Tennessee Mountain Laurel Festival