Oconee Bell

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The Oconee Bell, Shortia Galacifolia, is a rare wild flower found only in Oconee County. It was discovered by French botanist Andrew Michaux in 1788 near the Horse Pasture and Toxaway Rivers in what would become Oconee County. Due to confusion with the Michaux maps, the location of his discovery was not easily interpreted. In 1839, Asa Gray, an American botanist, began a quest to find the Oconee Bell, which he had named Shortia Galacifolia in honor of Charles Short, a prominent botanist and medical doctor from Kentucky. It was not until almost one hundred years later, in 1877, that the plant was rediscovered by George Hyams, the seventeen-year-old son of a plant collector.

The Oconee Bell is a delicate white and pinkish flower. It is called "Shee-Show" by the Cherokee, meaning "two-colored plant of the gods." The Cherokee would make an annual pilgrimage to the Carolina mountains in search of the Oconee Bell. This led them to the valley of the "Lost Maiden," or what is also called Jocassee. They believed the plant to be a lucky omen of the rain gods as it grew close to the water's edge.


  • "The Heritage of Oconee County, Vol. 1, 1868-1995, The Blue Ridge Arts Council, Seneca, South Carolina, 1995, Library of Congress card number 95-61417, page 19.