A large population of the rare, Small Whorled Pogonia orchid in western South Carolina — 2017-05-06

On Saturday, May 5, I was fortunate enough to be guided to a special site in Oconee County, South Carolina for the rare, Isotria medeoloides or Small Whorled Pogonia orchid. My guide was a recent acquaintance, David White, who is a contract employee for the US Forest Service, doing monitoring and surveys of plants within the state of South Carolina. David is the volunteer steward for this particular plot of orchids, and he is charged by the newly formed, South Carolina Plant Conservation Alliance (SCPCA), to make periodic reports concerning the orchid’s well-being.

Here is an image of one of the plants we found at the creek-side plot:

Small Whorled Pogonia orchid Small Whorled Pogonia orchid (with a tiny inch worm on one of the sepals)

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Three native orchids and some other stuff… 2017-04-26

Those of you who know me well, know that I am easily distracted by shiny objects. The latest, very shiny object to come my way is the cabin that Walter and I recently had built on a piece of mountain property in western North Carolina near the Tennessee border. Now, I am fully aware that talking about such an acquisition is like showing pictures of my grandchildren or our latest vacation, so I will try not to bore you much further. However, I mention all of this to let you know that I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth nor have I been raptured. It’s just life getting in the way of other more important things (like a blog).

Back in the saddle: Yesterday, after being notified by several of you that the orchids were in bloom in the Pisgah National Forest, I made the familiar trip up the road (Hwy. 276) to the Pisgah National Forest. However, first, I wanted to stop by the site for Isotria verticillata or Large Whorled Pogonia in the town of Brevard, North Carolina. This site was shown to me a few years ago, and I have visited it each year since then. In previous years, there have been hundreds of plants in flower. Last year, there were only 4 !!! This year, I counted 8 or 9 of them with many smaller, sterile plants showing themselves. I’m not sure the cause of the drastic decline, but it appears that they’re making a come back.

Here are a few shots of some of the plants I saw on this trip :

Large Whorled Pogonia Large Whorled Pogonia

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A rare plant from upstate South Carolina – Pachysandra procumbens or Allegheny Spurge — 2017-03-10

A few days ago, I saw a post that my friend, Rich Stevenson had posted on FB. He first posted an image of just the foliage, not knowing that it was in bloom. The next day, he posted an image of the flowers, after returning to the site.

Rich is a superb photographer and naturalist, and is always discovering new sights to see in our Southern Appalachian Mountains. I am very grateful that he shared with me the location for a very rare wildflower, Pachysandra procumbens or Allegheny Spurge. It is a “cousin” to the Pachysandra that is used as a garden ground cover, and which can be purchased at many nurseries. The one we photographed, however, is a native plant, and is found in South Carolina only in Pickens County. It is more common in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama. I believe Georgia also has a few populations. It is also found in only one county in North Carolina, as well. Having said that, when it is found, it is locally abundant, meaning that it is everywhere you look! There were thousands of plants at the site we visited, but we managed to find only about two dozen flowering stems. I believe we were a week or so early for the peak bloom, but I wanted to get out to photograph them because we have snow and very cold weather due in the next couple of days.

Here is an image of the strange flowers of this plant:

Allegheny Spurge Allegheny Spurge

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Seeing the rare, Relict Trillium in South Carolina — 2017-03-05

On March 5, 2017, my Georgia friends, James Van Horne, Alan Cressler, Steve Bowling and I visited a site in Aiken County, South Carolina for the rare, Trillium reliquum or Relict Trillium. This site is very near the classic site for this species.

When we arrived, we managed to find a roadside parking area, then retrieved our camera gear and made our way into the woods. Almost immediately, we found a blooming plant. I remembered seeing this species in an isolated site in Georgia a couple of years ago, and these plants looked no different. Being a “bird-in-the-hand” guy, I decided to photograph that flowering plant while the rest of the crew went ahead, looking for additional plants. The hillside of the ravine where the plants grow was quite steep, and I was constantly trying to keep my feet under me. The leaf litter was thick and loose, and reduced the friction I needed to remain upright.

Here is the image of the first plant I spotted:

Trillium reliquum Trillium reliquum

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New, undescribed Trillium species in Georgia and some other stuff — 2017-03-05

This will be a rather lengthy blog entry due to the large number of images of this undescribed Trillium species. So sit back and enjoy…

In late February, my friend James Van Horne from Kennesaw, Georgia messaged me and asked if I would be interested in joining a small group to look for an undescribed Trillium species in Elbert County, Georgia. He said that two other friends from Atlanta, Georgia would be going, as well. Those two are Alan Cressler and Steve Bowling. Of course, I said “YES!”. We agreed on a place to meet in Georgia near the Trillium location, and I began making preparations for the trip.

On Sunday, March 5, I packed all my camera gear and drove to the agreed location. It was really good to see those guys again, because it had been months since our last mutual field trip. We made our circuitous drive to a spot next to a large river in Elbert County, Georgia. Alan and I had been to this site In the early summer about a year ago, but we didn’t realize that there were Trillium plants there because they had died back for the season.

Upon reaching the site, almost immediately we began to see the plants in singles and small groups all along the road and stretching into the woods. We wasted no time in getting our camera gear and inspecting the population to find the best plants to photograph. As it turns out, this undescribed species is more variable that any other Trillium species I’ve ever photographed. The range of color forms and petal size and shape is mind-boggling. It’s almost like the entire population is made up of hybrid crosses of other Trillium species. This is probably not the case, because we did not find any identifiable pure species in the area. Here is an image of one of the more unusual flowers we saw in this population:

Undescribed Trillium species Undescribed Trillium species

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