CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Q: What is West Virginia's state flower?
A: The rhododendron.
Q: What color is it?
The state flower is often shown as a blowsy purple rhododendron, which is incorrect, according to Doug Jolley, a native plant expert who owns Windbeam Way Nursery in Heaters.
"West Virginia's state flower is the large shrub Rhododendron maximum. Its blooms are usually white, but it's sometimes tinged with pink," said Jolley. "People get that confused. It's a problem. The purple one is Rose Bay rhododendron."
Rose Bay rhododendron is not native to most of West Virginia but it does grow in a few southern counties. Rhododendron maximum grows naturally throughout most of the state, with the exception of the Ohio River valley.
The Ohio valley's climate is too warm for Rhododendron maximum, which prefers cooler, shady conditions.
"Rhododendron maximum is a good choice. It's hardy like a mountaineer, and it's represented in most of our geographical areas," Jolley said.
Rhododendron blooms in mid-June to July in most of West Virginia, depending on the climate. They usually grow in stands, creating impressive displays.
Grandview in the New River Gorge National Park, Blackwater Falls State Park, Cranberry Glades and Cathedral State Park all offer good viewing of large rhododendron stands. (Cathedral is currently closed because of extensive damage caused by heavy snowfall in March.)