Spring Surprise: Rhododendrons Among the Redwoods

You know that the redwoods-filled areas have, well, redwoods. But do you know their flowery neighbor?

THERE ARE NO SPOILER ALERTS... required for visiting Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, which is located snug in Humboldt County not too too far from the Pacific Ocean ("not too too far"=a few thousand feet, not several miles). You can see that "redwoods" is in its very name, so when you arrive and see some of the stretch-toward-the-sky-iest trees on this planet, well... You can say you knew about it ahead of time. But surprises closer to the ground exist in the redwood groves of the Golden State, and we can sometimes be delightfully taken aback when we come across those unexpected sights. (We thought we'd add "delightfully" there as "taken aback" sometimes arrives with a less than welcome follow-up.). For our tall tree forests are not just home to the tall trees in question but myriad other plants. Yes, you're right, ferns are rather plentiful, and the maples and laurels, too. But come the springtime, if you're around Prairie Creek, you just might spy something pink and frilly and sweet and garden-ready. That's because rhododendron, or rhodos or rhodies, if you prefer, rather like popping up among the majestic redwoods, at least in this specific area.

BEYOND THE GARDEN GATE: If you've always thought of the delicate flowers as being a stalwart of domesticity, a petal symphony that sticks close to garden fences and yards, an April-to-June stroll at Prairie Creek may put a wilder rhodie in mind. "The hillside trails of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park... have exceptionally thick concentrations of wild Pacific rhododendrons, and are some of the best viewing places." May is a fine time to look for the flowers, and there's even a Rhododendron Trail to stroll while staying on the lookout. Do the pinky petals enhance the surrounding reddish trunks of the park's main superstars? We'll leave that to color-mad artists to determine. But admiring something that we typically see in a tended-to plot near the backdoor out in a rustic and wonderful park is definitely a new way to view an old friend.

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