I couldn’t resist a visit when I heard that Rhododendron State Park was going to reach its peak bloom last weekend. This National Landmark in Fitzwilliam shelters a rare stand of native giant rhododendrons, which are more commonly found in the central or southern Appalachian Mountains. There are 16 acres of the pink and white flowered shrubs growing here beneath a canopy of beech, red oak, white pine, and hemlock trees.

It was a strange community to find in a New England forest. Braving a persistent swarm of mosquitoes I decided to venture into what was beginning to feel, on a balmy summer morning, like an excursion into the jungle. The twisted stands of thick, leathery leaves grew so high and dense that the trail was entwined like a tunnel. What would I find on the other side?

The first curiosity I stumbled upon was this cupped growth on the end of a rhododendron leaf. Was it an animal, a fungus, or part of the plant? Maybe a swimming pool for fairies? What is it?

The trail lead me over a boardwalk bridge, through an opening in the forest canopy where pink and white flowers were illuminated in the morning sunlight.

















And then I met two strangers. The first hopped boldly onto the path in front of me and cocked a wary golden eye in my direction.

The second was a little more shy as she patiently swayed in the breeze on a frond of hemlock.

As I continued walking the thick shrubbery of rhododendrons abruptly ended and I found myself in a typical New England forest. But there was one more mystery to be discovered, these curious little ghostly flowers poking through the dead leaves. What is it?

I had walked through the rhododendron tunnel and come out the other side, and had found a few surprises along the way, too.

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