Spring is early at Nine Times! — 2017-02-25

Nine Times Preserve is a small sliver of Pickens County, South Carolina that is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. According to The Nature Conservancy’s web page describing the preserve:

Named because nine bridges across a small creek were needed to gain access to the property, the 560‑acre nature preserve is one of the most biologically significant properties in the southeast. Located where the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains meet the Piedmont, The land encompasses five mountains that harbor more than 134 species of native wildflowers. It also is home to seven distinct forest types where black bear roam, unique rock outcrop plant communities where peregrine falcons fly, and headwater streams where trout dart.

Click here for a map of the preserve. In the Spring, especially, dozens of species of wildflowers can be found in abundance. The wildflower that is most prevalent this time of year is Erythronium umbilicatum or Dimpled Trout Lily.

I left the house fairly early in the morning so that I could get a head start on the breezes that are inevitably generated when the sun gets higher in the sky. It’s a one-hour drive for me and a trip that I’ve made many times. As I approached the gravel parking lot, I was a bit apprehensive, wondering if the plants would be in flower. In previous years, this population of Trout Lilies has been a bit later to bloom — sometimes by as much as two weeks, compared to the site I visited recently (Eva Russell Chandler Heritage Preserve). In my previous blog entry, I wrote about finding only a single Trout Lily in flower. So today, I could be met with a hillside of only leaves and buds with no open flowers.

The flowers of this species of Trout Lily do not open on a very cloudy day or on a clear day until the sun begins to warm the air. It was still early, so any flowers that I might find would just be opening. I gathered my camera gear and walked to the entrance to the preserve. As I got near, I heard another vehicle enter the gravel parking lot. Someone waved from the passenger side, but they were too far away for me to recognize who it was. I lingered at the entrance, while the visitors approached. Soon, I recognized that it was my good friend and professional photographer, Bill Robertson and his companion, Kathy. We exchanged hellos and talked about what we might find on this trip. It was Bill who had remarked in an email last week, that he had heard that the Trout Lilies were in bloom at Nine Times Preserve. That was what prompted my trip.

We entered the preserve and immediately found that most of the buds were still closed. The sun was filtering through the bare canopy, and I knew it would not be long before the flowers would begin to open. So I walked the trail looking for photographic opportunities and making mental notes about where to revisit in an hour or so. I reached the end of the trail and found a small group of plants nestled in the fork of the roots of a tree. It was too good to pass up, so I set my tripod and took this shot:

Dimpled Trout Lily Dimpled Trout Lily

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My annual walk through a winter woods… — 2017-02-12

This is supposed to be mid-winter, but it’s 80 degrees F (27 degrees C) outside! The plants still seem to be in winter mode though, and that is good because I suspect we do have a bit of cold weather ahead of us. We always have at least a couple of days of freezing temperatures in mid-April. But today’s walk is pretty much all about green. In our portion of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, there are a number of “evergreen” plants/trees whose leaves make them much easier to spot in the woods’ otherwise drab winter garb.

I did run across a single flowering plant, Erythronium umbilicatum or Dimpled Trout Lily. I figured some of them might be in bloom although it was just a bit early. Here is that little yellow beauty:

Dimpled Trout Lily.
Dimpled Trout Lily

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