Sunday, June 5, 2011

South Carolina Highlights, Part 1

Many of you know that Justin Thomas and I went to South Carolina on our annual botany excursion this spring. I will try to do justice to some of our trip highlights in this and my next two posts. I will also be including additional photos at some point on Through Handlens and Binoculars.

On our first day in South Carolina we visited three sites in the Blue Ridge Mountain province of the state. The first stop on our trip was at Table Rock State Park. Our hike at this National Natural Landmark site took us through montane deciduous forest communities and along a spray cliff. Here we saw the interesting shrub Pyrularia pubera (Santalaceae), shown below. This hemiparasite, known as buffalo-nut or oil nut, should not be eaten as it contains toxic oils. It is known from mountainous regions of the eastern United States.

As we walked along we continued to see an odd Thalictrum with showy white sepals. Justin finally commented on this plant that I had been watching as well, so we looked it up and found that it was Thalictrum clavatum, shown below. Mountain Meadow Rue, as it is known, is found in mountainous regions of eight eastern states and grows in moist forests and near streams.

Our next stop was at Eva Russell Chandler Heritage Preserve. This site boasts quality cataract bogs and granite domes as its highlight plant communities.

Cataract bogs (shown above) are interesting communties that are not bogs in the true sense of the word but that instead receive water from seepages. These communities occur along the margins of small streams that sheet flow over smooth rock surfaces.

One of the seemingly early successional plant species on the granite domes at this preserve was Kinky-hair Spikemoss, Selaginella tortipila (below). This primitive spore-bearing plant forms carpets on granite domes, cliffs, and ledges, and is endemic to Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Another common plant on the granite domes was Minuartia glabra, shown below. Appalachian Sandwort, as it is commonly known, grows on rock outcrops including granite domes.

The third site that we botanized on our first day was recommended to us by a member of the South Carolina Native Plant Society who we bumped into at Table Rock State Park. This preserve, known as Ashmore Heritage Preserve, has a dammed reservoir but also contains natural bog communities.

Our target at this site was not difficult to find and can be seen in the photograph above as well as that below. This is Sarracenia jonesii, Mountain Sweet Pitcher Plant. This extremely rare pitcher plant is known only from 10 populations in five counties in mountain seepage bogs in North and South Carolina. As a result of its population numbers and distribution, Mountain Sweet Pitcher Plant is Federally Endangered. This beautiful carnivorous species was named in honor of the man who studied insect associates of pitcher plants, Dr. F. M. Jones.

An unexpected bonus at Ashmore Heritage Preserve was Calopogon tuberosus, a species of eastern North America. It is a rare occasion when the flamboyant Tuberous Grasspink, as this orchid is known, is overshadowed and nearly ignored, but such was the case at this site with the occurrence of an exceedingly rare carnivorous plant in great abundance.

This ended our first day, as dusk approached while we continued to photograph orchids, pitcher plants, sundews, bladderworts, ferns, and sedges. We saw many, many more great plants on this first day, but there are not enough hours in the day to go through each of these here. Hopefully this brief summary excites you enough to stay tuned for part 2.


Mike said...

Great pictures.

You can find these specimens in the New York Botanical Garden's Virtual Herbarium:

Thalictrum clavatum:


Selaginella tortipila:

But they look better in your photographs.


Scott Namestnik said...

Thanks for the compliments, Mike, and also for the links. I visit the NYBG virtual herbarium on occasion.

Anonymous said...

Hi, like your site. Are you certain that is C. collinsii? It does look more like C. folliculata.

Scott Namestnik said...

Thanks Anonymous. I can't say for sure about the Carex since I don't have a collection. What makes you think it is C. folliculata? It doesn't remind me of the C. folliculata that grows in northern Indiana... the leaves on our C. folliculata are broader and the perigynia are all ascending. Looking at distribution maps, C. folliculata is pretty rare in South Carolina. According to Flora of North America, "south of central Virginia, Carex folliculata occurs only in the Appalachian mountains." We were away from the mountains in the sandhills where we saw this sedge, and it was growing in an Atlantic White Cedar swamp, as C. collinsii characteristically does. All of that said, I am open to your thoughts on why it could be C. folliculata.

Check back often!

Scott Namestnik said...

Anonymous... you were right. After seeing herbarium specimens of Carex collinsii, the plant we saw was not that and must have been Carex folliculata. The photo has been removed. Thanks for your keen eye.