Revisit to a Fringed Gentian location in northeast Georgia — 2016-10-16

It is that time of the year again. Time to make a visit to a Gentianopsis crinita or Fringed Gentian site. Since we don’t have this Gentian species in South Carolina, my headquarters, I had to drive 2.5 hours to a privately owned site in Union County, Georgia. I was first made aware of this sloping field several years ago by my good friend from Atlanta, Georgia, Alan Cressler. When we visited it then, it was late September, 2012. The site was a fallow field, and there were thousands of flowering Fringed Gentian scattered around. We got there in the morning, and all of the flowers were shut tight and covered with dew — they close at night then open in the morning when the sun warms them up.

On this trip, I didn’t get to the site until around noon, so all of the flowers were already open. However, due to the extreme drought in the spring and summer, there were only a few dozen plants in flower. It was a disappointment, but I tried to make the best of it. Fortunately, the plants were growing among a Sumac species whose leaves had already turned bright, scarlet red, which made for a nice background:

Fringed Gentian.
Fringed Gentian

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Some colorful fall wildflowers in the South Carolina upstate — 2016-10-09

To my patient subscribers: I apologize for sending out a blank blog post earlier this evening. The process I use to write my blog entries requires me to set up the post as “private” before I add images and write the text. When I am finished with the post, I convert it to “public”, and that is when it is supposed to be sent out to my subscribers. I messed up… I neglected to make it private before updating it the first time. Sorry… I appreciate your patience.


It is early fall in South Carolina, and even though the leaves have not yet taken on their glorious yellow, red, and orange colors, many of the fall wildflowers are already out for the show. This morning, I made the 45-minute trip north to visit one of my favorite state Heritage Preserves: Eva Russell Chandler Heritage Preserve in northern Greenville County. The many hundreds of forested acres of this mountain preserve range widely from wet depressions, cataract falls with rare cataract bog plants, xeric conditions on granite balds with prickly pear cactus and yucca plants, and mesic woods with several species of native orchids and numerous other wildflowers.

On the winding mountain road leading to the preserve, I saw a number of plants with purple flowers. I knew this to be Lobelia puberula or Downy Lobelia. It comes in many shades of blue/purple, and it has been in bloom for several months. Here is one of the plants I found along the trail leading in to the preserve:

Downy Lobelia.
Downy Lobelia

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Mid-September along the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina — 2016-09-15

Mid-September is usually a great time to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina. This is not my first blog entry dedicated to the wildflowers that can be seen this time of year in this area, so you will probably see some repeats of the flora in this blog entry. Even if that is the case, each year brings a different perspective to how the flowers present themselves and some of the differing color forms for any particular species. If you like bright shiny objects, I think you will like this post.

One of the problems with labeling the images is the determination of the county location. The Blue Ridge Parkway, especially in North Carolina, follows a very winding path along ridges and saddles, and it meanders across county lines numerous times — often as many as a half-dozen or more times in just 1 or 2 miles (1.6 or 3.2 km). So, if you think I might have gotten the county location wrong, you are probably correct. It’s not that important, anyway; it’s just our penchant for pigeon-holing data.

My main goal for this trip was to reach Wolf Mountain overlook In Jackson County. It is located near Mile Marker 424 on the Parkway. I do not feel uncomfortable divulging the location of this site, because it is well known to photographers, botanists, and naturalists, alike. Wolf Mountain overlook is famous among local naturalists for its huge diversity of mountain flora. This time of year, one can expect to see a wide variety of colors up and down the wet cliff face as well as in the shallow ditch at its base. Here is a shot of the view from the parking area:

Wolf Mountain overlook.
Wolf Mountain overlook

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Fall orchids and other wildflowers in the Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina — 2016-09-10

Just the other day, one of my blog subscribers let me know that she had found Spiranthes ovalis var. erostellata or October Ladies’-tresses orchid near the Davidson River in the Pisgah National Forest. This area is in Transylvania County, North Carolina, and I am somewhat familiar with the site she described. So, this morning, I loaded the truck with some snacks and my camera gear, and headed up the road about 1 hour and 45 minutes to the site. The only other sites I know for this orchid species are much farther away in the central or eastern central portion of the state, so I was pleased that some had been found closer to home.

It was quite easy to locate the exact spot where the orchids were growing because she had gone the extra mile to give me detailed directions. When I arrived, though, there were throngs of kids preparing to go tubing in the river. In addition, there had been a stocking of trout recently, and the fishermen were out in droves trying to catch the last one. Some were lucky, proudly showing off their strings of foot-long trout.

I’m used to getting curious glances and questions from onlookers, it’s a professional hazard, and I do my best to determine if the onlookers might be a threat to the plants. The majority of the time, I tell people I’m photographing mushrooms or “wildflowers”, and they accept that as truth. Sometimes, they want to examine the plants/flowers, but since the plants/flowers are usually quite small, they soon lose interest. That’s fine with me.

Anyway, back to the orchids…

These particular ones were quite a bit smaller than others of the same species I’ve seen. These were from 3 inches (7.5 cm) to 10 inches (25 cm) tall. As you will notice, the flowers do not fully open. But opening is not necessary, since the flowers are self-pollinating, so the need for a pollinator such as a bumble bee is moot. I found 12 flowering plants and two leaf rosettes without flowers. Here is an image of the nicest one:

October Ladies'-tresses orchid.
October Ladies’-tresses orchid

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Wildflowers in Southern Arizona — 2016-07-31 through 2016-08-05

Just today, someone (MB, you know who you are) requested that I finish posting the images that I took while on a week-long trip to southern Arizona where we attended the fabulous 2016 Native Orchid Conference in Benson, Arizona.

Disclaimer #1: This is a very, very long blog entry. This blogger is not responsible if you doze off during the reading of this blog entry.

Disclaimer #2: This blogger is not a trained botanist. He is also not intimately familiar with the flora of southern Arizona, and he’s done his best to identify the flora which appear in the images. If you see something that you believe to be misidentified, please bring it to my attention (I will be grateful), and I will do my best to correct the misidentification.


Not enough can be said about the wonderful job that was done by Ron Coleman of Tucson, Arizona in setting up the NOC symposium, gathering the guest speakers, arranging for the motel and meeting sites, and providing food, drink, and snacks for our enjoyment. In addition, he and a number of others did yeoman work figuring out the best locations for the field trips. After all, Ron wrote the books on the orchids of Arizona, New Mexico, and California. I am privileged to count him and his wife, Jan, as friends.

Images of the 5 species of native orchids we saw on our trip (BTW, all new to me) were posted in previous blog entries, so there won’t be any orchid images in this one:

Malaxis porphyrea and Platanthera limosa,
Malaxis abieticola,
Malaxis corymbosa, and
Malaxis soulei.

So, let’s get started…

Disclaimer #3: These images appear in no particular order. They were all made on the NOC field trips to the Sky Islands of southern Arizona. The locations include the Chiricahua Mountains, the Santa Catalina Mountains, and the Huachuca Mountains.

According to Wikipedia:

Sky islands are isolated mountains surrounded by radically different lowland environments. This has significant implications for natural habitats. Endemism, altitudinal migration, and relict populations are some of the natural phenomena to be found on sky islands. The complex dynamics of species richness on sky islands draws attention from the discipline of biogeography, and likewise the biodiversity is of concern to conservation biology. One of the key elements of a sky island is separation by physical distance from the other mountain ranges, resulting in a habitat island, such as a forest surrounded by desert. Some sky islands serve as refugia for boreal species stranded by warming climates since the last glacial period. In other cases, localized populations of plants and animals tend towards speciation, similar to oceanic islands such as the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador.

Here is an image taken from atop one of the Sky Islands — the Huachuca Mountain range:

Huachuca Mountains -- Sky Islands
Huachuca Mountains — Sky Islands

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