After our visit to Devil’s Fork State Park, Alan Cressler and I drove about 30 minutes west to one of my favorite places for spring wildflowers: Oconee Station State Historic Site. This site was orignially established in the late 1700s as a blockhouse for soldiers on the frontier. It also served as a trading post for local residents and Native Americans.
The attraction for me, however, is the trail leading to a spectacular, 60-foot (20 meter) waterfall. All along this trail, in season, dozens of species of wildflowers bloom. This trail follows along the valley which contains a basic cove forest. Since most of the upstate of South Carolina is made up of acidic soils, there are many species in this cove that are not frequently found in other botanical sites in the area.
This is the premier site for Trilliums in the upstate. Both Trillium simile, Gleeson’s Trillium or Sweet white Trillium and Trillium Catesbaei, Catesby’s Trillium are found in this location, but both of them bloom a bit later in the season.
As one walks along the approximately 1-mile (1.6 km) trail, the visual senses are assaulted by tens of thousands of Trillium cuneatum , also known as Little Sweet Betsy, blooming on the forest floor:
A week or so after the Trilliums begin to bloom, one will find masses of Podophyllum peltatum or Mayapple covering the forest floor. If you look closely at the image below, you will find Trillium cuneatum still blooming, but a bit underneath the Mayapple leaves:
Trilliums grow from a rhizome, which forms a couple of inches below the soil. More than one flowering stem my sprout from a rhizome, so sometimes a cluster of several blooming stems may be seen. The color of the flowers from a particular rhizome will be identical.
This blog post will highlight some of the many color forms of Trillium cuneatum at Oconee Station. Here are two of the color forms growing next to each other:
At this site, Trillium cuneatum exhibits three main color forms: Deep red, bronze, and yellow. Although some think that the yellow form is Trillium luteum, it is simply just a color form of Trillium cuneatum.
The first and by far the most common color form is the deep red form:
The bronze color forms seem to be an intermediate between the deep red and yellow forms. This is not a pure color, but apparently a mixture of the red and yellow forms. Sometimes there will be streaks or patches of color in the bronze forms:
Lastly, about one out of every five hundred or so plants will have flowers of the yellow color form. Occasionaly, the color of these yellow flowers approaches a dull green color:
Finally, here is an image of Oconee Station Falls, which greeted us at the end of the trail:
What a great day it turned out to be for photographing wildflowers! The sky was overcast, providing perfect, diffused light. The temperature was in the upper 60s, and the flowers behaved and bloomed when they were expected to bloom. What more could we have asked for?…