Appalachia Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

The Yellow Bells are in Bloom

The yellow bells are shining from the hills and hollers of southern Appalachia. I see their brightness as I drive along the curvy roads on my way to and fro. I see their brightness from my kitchen window too.

Forsythia, or yellow bells as its commonly called, thrives in our mountains. I have always thought of it as an old fashioned flower. Both Mamaw and Granny Gazzie had it growing in their yards.

Twenty years ago when we first moved into our house I was always looking for things to plant in our barren red clay yard. I should say I was always looking for FREE things to plant. Money was scarce but there was always a generous soul willing to share a cutting or start of something they had.

Granny shared her yellow bells with me and she showed me how to plant them. She said “Come Spring of the year we’ll get you some cuttings from my forsythia bushes, all you have to do is stick them in the ground and they’ll live.” It wasn’t that I didn’t believe Granny, but it seemed impossible that all I had to do was cut a piece off and stick it in my red clay dirt and I’d have my own yellow bell bushes.

But that’s exactly what we did. The bushes are still alive today. They throw out their vibrant welcome for spring each and every year.

Sometimes you can find yellow bells blooming way back in the mountains. Don Casada taught me yellow bells are a sure sign of an old homeplace.

I believe the bright yellow blooms of the bushes that continue to grow where people have long since stopped living carry forth part of the beauty and hope from the caring hands which planted them so many years ago.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    March 16, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    There were great humps and stands of them around our home in NW PA too, thanks to a Grandmother with a green thumb who stuck many things in the ground that flourished and thrived at her touch and probably still does. Over the years we’ve brought some to our own homes, some in the south, stuck them in the ground, and they thrive here too. I wonder if there’s anywhere they won’t grow.
    As a child, our youngest sister Cynthia thought their name was “For Cynthia” and thought they were named after her. That’s a sweet memory.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    March 16, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    “Yellow Bells!!” My brain lit up!!! . I knew you meant Forsythia. Not too many years after I was married our jobs took us from IL to PA and I planted them on both sides of our backyard. One spring my parents came out to see us and my Mother said “Oh, your Yellow Bells look beautiful!” She grew up in MS. so I guess that is what they were called down there. I love them too.

  • Reply
    Barbara Gantt
    March 16, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    ‘We have yellow bells in Vermont. I have them three different places on our land. They remind of home. I broke some branches and stuck them in some water on the kitchen table. They bloomed a week ago. They wont bloom for at least another two months . Barbara

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    March 16, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    I love seeing all the beautiful bright yellow forsythia blooming everywhere. Between the forsythia, daffodils and pink and white blossoming trees you surely know Spring is here ((even thought we are supposed to get another cold snap this weekend)!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 16, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    My father never gave me a whipping that I can remember but one of his sermons made a little smartalecky boy hurt worse than anything dealt out by my mother. Getting “wore out” in my case meant she whipped me til her arm was too tired to hold the switch. She would sent me to get a switch and warn me not to bring back some flimsy thing or she would wear it out on me and make me go get another one. Her switch of choice was a little plant we called rabbit cane. It was just like bamboo but only as big as a pencil and about 3 or 4 feet tall. You could tie a knot in it and it wouldn’t break. It was some tough stuff and, depending on how much I showed out, might last a whole season.

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    March 16, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    I have forsythia bushes from cuttings from my grandmother’s bushes. They’re beautiful and make me think of her.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    March 16, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    Just saw Kimberly Burnette’s note. Kimberly, your mother must’ve gone to the same school of nurturing that our mother did. There’s a yellow bell bush on the west side of our house which served that very purpose – at least for Mama. My father had a fairly hefty paint paddle which he knew how to use. All of which reminds me of a ditty from about 60 years ago:
    When I was just a little boy – just so high,
    Mama took a switch and made me cry.
    Now I’m a big boy, and Mama can’t do it.
    But Daddy takes a limb and goes right to it.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Your wonderful spring time posts of all that’s blooming bring back fond memories of our time in the DC area. Our time off was mostly spent along Skyline Drive and hiking the marked trails. Such beautiful scenery; and such a comfortable feeling in those old colorful patchwork mountains.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    Now that I’m back in Tennessee, I just recognized I have some forsythia a day or two ago! A delightful sight.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    March 16, 2016 at 11:51 am

    I think it’s so nice that you notice the natural things around you. During his bushwacking adventures, Don is a good friend to help guide folks too…Ken

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 16, 2016 at 11:48 am

    I love the Yellow Bells! My grandmother had them all around her house. The first time I heard the word Forsythia I didn’t have a clue what it was. When my friend explained that Forsythia was an bush that bloomed early in the spring with beautiful yellow blooms I said, Oh, you mean yellow Bells. She got a good laugh out of that

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    March 16, 2016 at 11:04 am

    I love Forsythia…mine are blooming. The singe button bushes are blooming as well…So many Daffodils blooming too. My January Jasmine started blooming in Dec. stopped and started again twice before now it is in full bloom…It smells wonderful. The Magnolia Stellata and Purple Magnolia are intoxicating. Love them…I don’t think the white Stellata magnolia flowers will get burnt by a freeze this year thank goodness…All the Crabapples are popping out and our Apple tree is especially early this year just covered in blooms…I hope they set apples soon before a frost or freeze..
    I just love Spring…
    Thanks for this post Tipper
    PS..A few years ago we cut back some shrubs that were growing into the drive way…The better half…since he was close to the woodland as the driveway borders it, just tossed the cut branches back into the woods….You guessed it, the next Spring a mishmash of Forsythia, Bridal Wreath, etc. had rooted and was blooming in the woods…ha

  • Reply
    Janice McCall
    March 16, 2016 at 11:03 am

    Yellow Bells and Jonquils — my favorite flowers — neither of which will survive in Zone 9A, Ocala, Florida. Loved your post today!

  • Reply
    March 16, 2016 at 10:36 am

    Forsythia is one of my favorite signs of summer. I spent many years in NJ where I had the job of trimming my parents’ bush. It was huge and I needed a ladder. A few times I have been known to accidentally cut the electric trimmer connection. Then it was back to the old way – using hand trimmers. Thanks for the great memories this post gave me.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2016 at 10:35 am

    I didn’t believe it either, Tipper! But it worked for me too. I lost my biggest and best forsythia last summer. I haven’t figured out why yet, and I really miss it. I think I’ll go out and stick some sticks in the ground today 🙂

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    March 16, 2016 at 10:30 am

    I’ve never heard forsythia called “yellow bells,” but I love the name and I’ll use it now. It’s the first shrub to bloom in New Mexico, too, and it was also the first in East Texas when I was growing up.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 16, 2016 at 9:31 am

    Yellow bells as indicators of old house places also reminds me of daffodils, vinca, leeks and yucca as also indicating them.
    We used to take family outings in the spring to find plants at old house sites scattered through the surrounding national forest. In those far off days there wasn’t even a thought that permission was needed. We lived the traditional Appalachian attitude that the woods were a commons area for all within reason. To this day I still have that attitude though taking anything from public lands now is much more restrictive than it was then. I have often puzzled over that ambiguity in an otherwise morally well-defined community. It is related to the biblical idea of eating freely from another’s crops so long as none was taken away in a container. But I have veered off the track a bit.
    The other shrub that was a rather common old-timey ornamental was flowering quince. I have a forsythia and a flowering quince planted side-by-side and they are both blooming now. The daffodils got confused this year and bloomed so-so weeks ago while nights were still dropping below freezing. Then when it warmed up they didn’t bloom any more. I have lots of violets that are blooming now. They are one of the few things that do well in shade.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    March 16, 2016 at 9:27 am

    We always called them Easter bushes since they bloomed around Easter. There was a creek that curved around our large backyard and there was a row of these bushes planted along the creek bank. I suspect that one of the reasons the bushes were planted there was to keep me out of the creek, because it was pretty impossible to wiggle through those bushes! Our backyard was just stunning when they bloomed! That brilliant yellow outlined the beautiful spring green yard!
    I can never see these bushes blooming without remember another purpose that these bushes served when I was growing up. You see, I tended to be a bit mouthy and would back-talk mama and daddy when they would tell me to do something that I really didn’t want to do. Many was the time that mama would tell me to go get my own switch and forsythia makes a mighty fine, flexible switch! Yep, my backside became all too familiar with these bushes!

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    March 16, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Ironically, Tipper, I went by three old home places yesterday where yellow bells are just starting to bloom (they’re at a bit higher elevation than you). From now until early April is the best time of year to be out in the woods looking for old homes. Yellow bells, daffodils (mostly the old double jonquil type), periwinkle, and japonica (flowering quince) – all associated with old home sites – are beginning to bloom. The fact that there’s little in the way of native vegetation which has leaves or blooms out at this point makes it a lot easier to spot places.
    I will say that I’ve spotted yellow bells in a place or two where I don’t think there was ever a home. One is on the north face of a hillside on Indian Creek of Deep Creek where there’s a rock wall across the hollow to reduce erosion. In my imaginings, I can see a young girl like you were (still are!) when you stuck your cutting in the ground seeing that rock wall and deciding to decorate. The other is right along the old road up Juneywhank Branch. In that case, my imagining is that someone was taking cuttings to – or from – a home site that’s a few hundred yards above there and one fell out of a bundle and just took root. It’s now under the dense shade of some rhododendron, but still manages to just barely hold on.

  • Reply
    Cynthia Schoonover
    March 16, 2016 at 8:44 am

    My mom has a forsythia bush in her front yard, and it’s been there since I was a small child. They’re one of the first things to bloom in the spring in the Richmond, Virginia area.

  • Reply
    roger fingar
    March 16, 2016 at 8:22 am

    I remember finding your post from 201,1 two years later, about Maggie’s Chapel and Maggie Martin. You mentioned then that yellow bells you’d seen might indicate the site of Maggie’s old homestead. I’ve not yet been in Brasstown when I knew to look for yellow bells, but I’ve often wondered whether they might indicate an old home site on our property around Maggie’s Chapel. For a couple years, I’ve imagined that a thicket about 50yds west of the church drive and about half that distance from the road was a good candidate for an old home site. I think I remember some stones in the center, which added fuel to my suspension. The spindly look of the yellow bells in the photo look a lot like that thicket to me – or maybe I just want them to . . .
    Thanks for todays post, Roger

  • Reply
    March 16, 2016 at 7:52 am

    You are so far ahead of me, season-wise! It’s nice to have previews of good things to come 🙂 And reminders to get busy with things like seed-starting. Thanks, Tipper!

  • Reply
    eva nell mull wike, PhD
    March 16, 2016 at 7:16 am

    Tipper: Your yellow bells remind me of my ARNOLD’S PROMISE (WITCH HAZEL) which has been in bloom for two weeks. Now the forsythia has made a show. But ARNOLD’s PROMISE IS STILL LOOKING GOOD!
    Eva Nell

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