A bit of housekeeping before we get started: Recently, I have been trying to keep this blog up-to-date and to keep all of the parts and pieces working, but recently I have had several issues that are just beyond my ability to cope with. One of them is the Comments section down at the bottom of each blog post. Currently, it no longer works. Additionally, the coding that sends out notifications of new blog posts sent multiple notifications to many of you on the most recent posting — not good, and I apologize for the inconvenience. There are other issues, as well, so I have hired on a website team that is part of my blog hosting company to take over the website upkeep responsibilities. They are in the process of cleaning up the coding and updating all of the parts to make sure it runs smoothly and efficiently. We will see how this works out. It may take a month or so to complete the process; we are not sure at this point what is the entire scope of the project. For now, please bear with me until the work is done.
Now, back to our previously scheduled programming…
The images which are the subject of this post will probably look familiar to you, especially if you perused the most recent blog post — the first post of 2021. Currently, there is not much in bloom in the upstate of South Carolina except Erythronium umbilcatum or Dimpled Trout Lily, although much will come into bloom in the next few weeks. Walter Ezell and I decided to make a trip to our most prolific site for these tiny yellow beauties to catch them at their peak and to look for signs of other wildflowers poking out of the ground. The place I’m referring to is Nine Times preserve, a TNC (The Nature Conservancy) site encompassing more than 500 acres (226 hectares). According to the official website:
“The towns of the native Cherokee people along the Big Eastatoee River were connected by a trail that ran through this area. Travelers between these towns, from early settlers up through the mid-twentieth century, had to cross a two-mile-long tributary of the Little Eastatoee River nine different times in order to stay on the path. This tributary now is known as Nine Times Creek. It parallels the northern border of this 560-acre nature preserve. Nine Times Preserve lies at the intersection of South Carolina’s Southern Blue Ridge Mountains and its piedmont region, where mountainous terrain begins to slope into gentler hills. Black bear, peregrine falcons and freshwater trout are just a few of the species you may find on this incredibly biologically significant property. More than 134 species of native wildflowers bloom in Nine Times Preserve. The preserve encompasses five mountains and seven distinct forest types.”
In order that the subject will not be too boring, I have attempted to make these Dimpled Trout Lily images a bit more “artistic” rather than just documentary. I’m not sure I achieved this goal, but I’m pleased with the results. Here is what we saw on this trip to Nine Times:
Dimpled Trout Lily
Welcome to 2021! This is the beginning of my 9th year of Jim’s Nature Blog. I had actually considered shutting it down at the end of 2020, but I think I’ve still got a couple of more years in me to keep it going. I’m not promising a lot of new stuff this year, but there are a few things in the pipeline that should be exciting.
It’s still pretty early in the year for wildflowers — even in South Carolina. But, cabin fever got the best of me, so I asked Walter Ezell if he wanted to join me in a brief foray into one of upstate South Carolina’s premier state Heritage Preserves — Eva Russell Chandler Heritage Preserve. Of course, he said, “YES!” I had been up there last week for a look-see, but the first seasonal wildflower to bloom for us in the upstate, Erythronium umbilicatum or Dimpled Trout Lily, was in bud only. We’ve had a few days in the 60s (F) (15-20 C), so I figured that the buds might now be opening up. The day was partly cloudy, and some sunshine was breaking through the clouds from time to time.
We arrived about noonish, gathered our gear, and headed down the foot trail toward the granite bald at the end of the trail. Immediately, we began to see hundreds of Trout Lily leaves, but we didn’t see any open flowers. It was not looking good… Farther on down the trail, I began to see some buds that were just opening, but nothing photogenic. About halfway down the trail, to our right, was the first open flower. What a relief! Here is what we saw:
Warning: This will be a lengthy post, so settle back with an adult beverage and enjoy…
After spending the night at a motel in Little River, South Carolina, we awoke bright and bushy-tailed, got dressed and ate our meager continental breakfast. With fresh memories of the previous day’s field trip in the Francis Marion National Forest, we packed our gear, checked out of the motel, and headed north on US Hwy. 17, Ocean Highway, toward Supply, North Carolina, the nearest town to the Green Swamp Preserve. Walter Ezell and I had planned to meet Jim Brighton, Jared Satchell, and Kelvin Taylor at “The Pond”, a borrow pit which is a landmark for those botanizing in the Green Swamp. The meeting time was set for 8:30 am.
We arrived and found that Kelvin had just arrived and was waiting for us. A few minutes later, Jim and Jared showed up and parked next to our vehicles. Jim told me that he had invited Eric Ungberg, a graduate student in the Department of Botany at the University of North Carolina, to join us. I had met Eric a couple of years prior to this visit, and I was happy to see him again.
So, we chatted a bit about the “plan”, and we decided to head off to one of the nearby grassy, longleaf pine savannahs where we would hopefully find the rare, Parnassia caroliniana or Carolina Grass-of-Parnassus in full bloom. This species’ status is “S2”, which means: Imperiled in North Carolina due to rarity or some factor(s) making it very vulnerable to extirpation from the state. Typically six to 20 occurrences or few remaining individuals (1,000 to 3,000). This particular site is fairly reliable with many dozens of blooming plants. Here is an example of the flower of Carolina Grass-of-Parnassus:
The cusp of October/November is the time of year for the last gasp of wildflowers along the Atlantic Coastal Plain of the Carolinas. I always get a big kick out of visiting my favorite swampy, boggy, mucky areas in the Francis Marion National Forest, where the last of the fall orchids, Spiranthes odorata or Fragrant Ladies’-tresses orchid bloom in profusion. On this particular trip, two new friends of mine, Jim Brighton and Jared Satchell, both from Maryland, were in the area and wanted to see some of the wildflowers of the Carolina Coastal Plain. Since Walter Ezell and I were going to be making a trip down on Friday, we decided to join up for the final field trips of the season.
Spiranthes odorata or Fragrant Ladies’-tresses orchid is one of our most beautiful Spiranthes species, with flowers up to 1/2 inch (12 mm) long and with a distinctly earthy-sweet fragrance, reminiscent of vanilla and jasmine. They grow in a wet, boggy habitat that is sometimes (often) inundated for a portion of the year. That’s why rubber boots are de rigueur. The flowering portion of the plant may reach 3-4 feet (~90-120 cm) tall, with the top 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) loaded with fragrant flowers, which are “spiralled” around the uppermost portion of the stem. Here is a close-up of one of the inflorescences we photographed:
I had the morning open to do some fun things, so I thought about what might be blooming nearby. This is the time of year for fall wildflowers in an upstate South Carolina heritage preserve which I consider one of my favorites — Eva Russell Chandler Heritage Preserve, in northern Greenville County, South Carolina. It borders Persimmon Ridge Road, which again, is one of my favorite byways for seasonal wildflowers.
This heritage preserve is habitat for several state species of concern as well as a federally listed pitcher plant species. Besides that, it offers a spectacular view at the end of a short trail opening onto a steep, granitic bald. On a clear day, the tallest buildings of Greenville, my home town, can be seen at a distance of about 35 miles. It is also home to one of the handful of rare, cataract bogs which might be found in the area. Some images of this cataract bog can be seen here. I’ve probably given more publicity about this area than I should, so I won’t provide you any more information about this place, but if you are interested, you can do some research on your own and perhaps make a visit.
This day was what many call a “bluebird day” — sun shining brightly, and the sky seeming to be more blue because it is framed by the color of fall leaves. A bluebird day for us in the Southeast without snow. I generally don’t appreciate this type of day, especially for photography, being more accustomed to photographing wildflowers in subdued/diffused light provided by high overcast. However, it was quite refreshing to get out in the morning while the air was still crisp, and the wind was calm.