A federally Endangered species on the Carolina coastal plain (plus an orchid bonus) — 2018-05-21

For many years, I’ve wanted to study and photograph a particularly uncommon, federally Endangered plant species which grows in the longleaf pine savannahs along the Carolina coastal plain. This plant species is Schwalbea americana or American chaffseed. According to Wikipedia, “…[it] is the sole species currently classified in the genus Schwalbea. It is an erect, hemiparasitic, perennial herb in the broomrape family. It is native to the southeastern United States where it is found in wet acidic grasslands. This species has declined tremendously from its historical range due to fire suppression, and it is currently listed as ‘Endangered’ by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Although it has been recorded from seven coastal states, this species has a stronghold, if you can call it that, in South Carolina. Many populations are small and have plants that number into only the hundreds or fewer. Click Here for a wonderful and informative write-up by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that tells you everything you want to know about this species, and more.

My sincerest thanks go out to my good friend, Dr. Richard Porcher (noted author and botanist, and also retired professor from the Citadel University in Charleston, SC) who agreed to join me on my trek and point out a couple of locations for this plant species. I visited one other site in the FMNF for these plants, but they were well past bloom.

Here is a shot of the not-so-impressive-but-still-very-interesting flowers:

Schwalbea americana Schwalbea americana

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The Yellows in DuPont State Forest, Transylvania County, North Carolina – and some surprises — 2018-05-12

This is a lengthy post, so please pick a time when you can browse the text and pictures at your leisure.

For the past few years, I’ve been visiting DuPont State Recreational Forest in Transylvania County, North Carolina, to photograph Cypripedium parviflorum variety pubescens or Large Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchid and Cypripedium parviflorum variety parviflorum or Small Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchid, which grow in pretty good numbers there. It requires a 2-hour hike up and down some fairly steep inclines to find them, but it’s worth every step! The bloom occurs around Mother’s Day each year, and is usually quite reliable. This year was no exception! Here is a shot of one of the Large Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchids I photographed on this trip:

Large Yellow Lady's-slipper orchid Large Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchid

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Part 2 of 2 — Orchids and Lilies and Azaleas, oh my! — 2018-05-05

As I mentioned in my previous blog (Part 1 of 2) about our recent trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina, I was joined by my good buddies from Atlanta, Georgia — Alan Cressler and Steve Bowling. On our way up Hwy. 276 through the Pisgah National Forest, I suggested that we stop at a special site for Cypripedium acaule or Pink Lady’s-slipper orchids. I certainly did not have to twist any arms.

This particular site is on a foot trail off a gravel forest service road, and is spectacular in that the plants are quite large, and they never disappoint. There must have been close to 100 blooming plants, and they were in perfect shape. Here is an image of one small group to whet your appetite:

Pink Lady's-slipper orchid Pink Lady’s-slipper orchid

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Part 1 of 2 — A kaleidoscope of Trilliiums on the Blue Ridge Parkway — 2018-05-05

Early this past Saturday morning, my two good buddies, Alan Cressler and Steve Bowling from Atlanta, Georgia met me at my house, and we headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway via the Pisgah National Forest. We had such a great day, that I’m going to have to split the trip report into two parts. The first part will cover the Trillium images only. The second part will cover the remainder of the Spring wildflower images.

You might remember that my last report showed you some Trillium hybrids that I found in the Pisgah National Forest. I believe that this a location very similar to the one that Fred Case mentioned on page 139 of his book, Trilliums, except I believe that the ones I found must be hybrids between Trillium vaseyi or Vasey’s Trillium and Trillium erectum or Red Trillium. I will leave it to you, Dear Reader, to form your own opinion. However, I must mention that there are pure strains of both Trillium vaseyi and Trillium erectum very nearby, but I have found no sign of the Trillium rugelii or Southern Nodding Trillium that Case mentions.

Here are a couple of shots of these strange but beautiful Trillium hybrid flowers:

Trillium hybrid Trillium hybrid

Trillium hybrid Trillium hybrid

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Recent trip to the Pisgah National Forest for early Spring orchids — 2018-04-25

It’s that time of year again. Spring keeps us amateur naturalists very busy spending every spare minute in the field chasing the Spring ephemerals which do not last long at all. It is also time to catch the early Spring orchids in bloom. One special region I like to visit every Spring is the Pisgah National Forest in Transylvania County, near Brevard, North Carolina. The orchids that bloom in late April are Isotria verticillata or Large Whorled Pogonia orchid and Galearis spectabilis or Showy orchis. Both of these species is fairly reliable and produces some lovely flowers.

Here are examples of each of these two orchid species:

Isotria verticillata Isotria verticillata

Galearis spectabilis Galearis spectabilis

The trip to these sites began in my home town of Greenville, South Carolina. Driving north toward the Pisgah National Forest takes me on a beautifully scenic drive up the Blue Ridge Escarpment. According to www.visitgreenvillesc.com, “The escarpment is the line where the mountains are visibly reduced to foothills. Table Rock Mountain is one such outcropping. The 11,000-acre Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area encompasses the escarpment, as well as Jones Gap and Caesars Head state parks. Hardwood forests, mountain streams, lakes and diverse animal and plant habitats number among its treasures.” The escarpment abruptly rises several thousand feet and is loaded with rich mountain coves and waterfalls. In these coves, one can find many Spring wildflowers in rather large numbers. A few of these coves are transected by Hwy. 276 which runs from Greenville to Brevard.

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