Back to the mountains of northeast Georgia — 2018-06-10

I must be a glutton for punishment. On Sunday, June 10, my good friend Alan Cressler and I made the trip back up to a remote mountain bog in Rabun County, Georgia to check on the bloom status of a state-endangered native orchid that we had seen in bud the previous week. This orchid is Cleistesiopsis bifaria or Mountain Small Spreading Pogonia orchid. It has a close counterpart along the Atlantic Coastal Plain which is known as Cleistesiopsis oricamporum or Coastal Plain Small Spreading Pogonia orchid. These two species were, for a long time, thought to be the same species, but fairly recently, they were split into two separate species due to significant differences. I have to point out that there are those who still believe that they are the same species.

Although this southeastern native orchid is fairly widespread, it is by no means common. In Georgia it is classified as S1 or “Critically Imperiled”. I believe it is known from only two, maybe three, mountain sites in Georgia. So, my physical struggle to hike the uphill mountain trail was definitely worth it. Here is one of the shots of the three blooming plants we found on this trip:

Mountain Small Spreading Pogonia orchid Mountain Small Spreading Pogonia orchid

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Green Adder’s-mouth orchid, Rabun County, Georgia — 2018-06-05

I have to give a big shout-out to photographer and good friend, Liz Fox, for finding a very nice population of Malaxis unifolia or Green Adder’s-mouth orchid in Tallulah Gorge State Park, near Tallulah Falls, Rabun County, Georgia. She saw my last post highlighting the Pitcher Plants at a remote bog in Rabun County, and then mentioned that she had just seen the orchids after she stopped on her way home to give her canine companions a rest stop. She remembered that I had been in the park as part of my trip the day before. That’s the way it works. Sometimes we find great plants when we least expect it.

Green Adder's-mouth orchid Green Adder’s-mouth orchid

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Visit to a remote Pitcher Plant bog in northeast Georgia — 2018-06-02

On Saturday, June 2, my good friend, Alan Cressler and I made the trip up into the mountains of northeast Georgia to visit a very remote mountain bog (technically, a fen) to attempt to find Cleistesiopsis bifaria or Upland Spreading Pogonia orchid in bloom. Alan had seen it in bud there a couple of years ago, so we set the trip date to be about a week later in the year.

To sweeten the deal, this location is the only native site left in Georgia for the extremely rare, Sarracenia purpurea subspecies venosa variety montana or Mountain Purple Pitcher Plant. Several other bog sites in the upstate of Georgia have been “repopulated” with this rare species, thanks to the hard work of the conservation staff at the Atlanta Botanical Garden in raising plants from seed gathered at this site. There are just a handful of other sites for this plant in North Carolina and South Carolina. It is currently federally listed, so it is easy to understand why I don’t give out the specific location. Frankly, it is so remote, that I’m not sure I could find it on my own if my life depended on it. Alan used his GPS to get us there after two hours of hiking… uphill in both directions! Here is a shot of one of the clumps of the Mountain Purple Pitcher Plant, in situ:

Mountain Purple Pitcher Plant Mountain Purple Pitcher Plant

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Some reds, some whites, and a touch of gold — 2018-05-30

Today, I had less than 3 hours to check out and photograph some wildflowers at a location I’ve visited on several previous occasions. The time was not limited by other things I had to do, but it was limited by the deluge of rain we have been seeing for the past week. Fortunately, there was a brief break in the weather that allowed me to run up to my favorite Hwy. 288 road cut to see if the Spigelia marilandica or Indian Pink was in bloom. Among the red flowers that bloom in our area in the summer, this is perhaps the reddest. The flowers form as a row of little pointed tubes which split open at the apex, revealing a star-like bloom of bright yellow petals. The outside of the corolla is a rich, deep red, but the inside is a very bright yellow. It makes a great contrast of colors. Here is an example of one of the many dozens of plants that I saw growing on the hillside:

Spigelia marilandica Spigelia marilandica

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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, “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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The Magic of Boggs Rock — 2018-04-24

I have been waiting weeks for the peak bloom at Boggs Rock in Pickens County, South Carolina. Our state has several sites for a very special plant known as Diamorpha smallii or Elf orpine. It prefers the dry, severe landscape of a flat, bald rock face. On the rock face itself, not much else can survive except a few Lichen species and a moss known as Grimmia laevigata or Dry Rock Grimmia.

Elf orpine is found in only a handful of southeastern states, and then only on flat, exposed formations which are composed of unbroken granite and granite-gneisses and are emplaced within Precambrian metamorphic rocks which are scattered on the eastern side of the Appalachian Mountains. Along with Elf orpine, there are a number of other rather unusual plants which also prefer this harsh environment. However, most of these species are usually found on the edges of the rock outcrop where dirt has accumulated and where there is a meager supply of water during the hot, summer season.

A week or so ago, I took my young friend, Alex Patton, of Ohio to the site where he was able to photograph the beginning of the Spring bloom of these plants. They weren’t at peak bloom, but he was able to add a few species to his life list. It was fun to see him drink in the magical beauty of a flatrock outcrop in flower.

The Elf orpine plant is quite unusual in that this annual plant is only a couple of inches tall, at best, and in the full sun, its bulbous leaves turn bright, scarlet red. The 4-petaled, star-shaped flowers are only about 3/16 of an inch (less than 5mm) wide and are bright white. When mature, the plant will form several branches, at the end of which the flowers form. The contrast of the white flower petals, the scarlet leaves, and the rich green of the moss makes for some interesting images.

Here is a shot of a tiny, 1 inch tall (2.5 cm), unbranched Elf orpine plant growing on the moss:

Elf Orpine on Dry Rock Grimmia Elf Orpine on Dry Rock Grimmia

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