Brief visit to upstate South Carolina Heritage Preserve for fall Gentians — 2016-11-01
This morning, I made a brief day trip to one of my favorite Heritage Preserves in upstate South Carolina. The name of the preserve is Eva Russell Chandler Heritage Preserve. It is located in Greenville County, South Carolina about 45 minutes north of my home. Past visits in early November have shown me several populations of the electric-blue, Gentiana saponaria or Soapwort Gentian also known as Harvest Bells. This species got the name, “Soapwort Gentian” , because its leaves closely resemble those of Saponaria officinalis or Soapwort. When the leaves of Soapwort are rubbed on the hands with water, a soap-like substance is produced. In addition, the term “wort” comes from Middle English, from Old English wyrt meaning: root, herb, or plant. But I digress…
When I’m visiting an area I’ve visited in past years, I am never sure if I will find what I’m looking for. However, on this trip, I did find about a dozen Soapwort Gentian plants in three different locations in the preserve. The plants were scattered in singles and small groups over a wide area of the forest. Here is an example of one of the plants I saw:
This species tends to grow in damp sites such as creek banks, shallow ditches, and depressions. That habitat description fits all of the sites I visited on this trip. The upper portion of the preserve is a mesic pine/hardwood forest and is part of a system of natural areas set aside by the state of South Carolina. According to www.upcountrysc.com,
These natural areas and cultural sites provide resources for scientific research; serve as reservoirs of natural and historical elements and habitats for rare and vanishing species. Visitors may observe natural biotic and environmental systems as areas for both study and enjoyment and as examples of the lands, structures and related artifacts which represent significant aspects of South Carolina’s historical and cultural heritage. As of 2008, more than 83,000 acres have been protected as Heritage Preserves.
The preserves are open for public educational and recreational uses during daylight hours in accordance with Heritage Preserve rules. Many are included in the WMA Program, with hunting and fishing allowed according to state regulations. Preserve boundaries are clearly marked with white Heritage Preserve signs.
It is also a great place to search for native orchids in just about any season. This preserve also hosts several species of rare and endangered carnivorous plants. What a wonderful place to visit almost anytime of the year! If you type the word, “Chandler” in the SEARCH box at the top right of any of my blog pages, you will be presented with 16 separate blog entries to choose from, each one covering road trips to this state Heritage Preserve. It is definitely one of my favorite photography places, and I’m quite happy that it is so close to home. I’m also quite grateful that the SC Department of Natural Resources takes such good care of the state Heritage Preserves.
Back to the wildflowers. Here are some additional images of this fall Gentian:
There were a couple of plants growing under Acer rubrum or Red Maple trees, and the fallen leaves made for a colorful background:
At this point, if you are unfamiliar with this species, you might be wondering why the flowers are not open. This particular Gentian species usually has closed flowers, but some of them will open under certain favorable conditions. Here is a shot of one plant I found with open flowers:
It is interesting to note that the main/preferred pollinator for this species is a Bombus species or Bumble Bee. It is strong enough to force its way through the top of the closed flower and make its way down to the nectar and pollen rewards. A smaller pollinator is just not strong enough to force open the closed flowers.
Many of the plants were showing multiple flowers in several groups up and down the stem, but a good number of them were “onesies” and “twosies”:
For those of you, Dear Readers, who tell me that I show the close-ups without full plant images, here is an image of two plants in their native environment:
While searching for additional plants to photograph, I came across the following fall scene. It is slow-moving Slickum Creek with a coating of colorful autumn leaves:
Finally, here are some additional images of Soapwort Gentian flowers:
Well, this is probably my last wildflower blog entry for the year as the Gentians are usually the last of the colorful wildflowers to bloom in our region. I hope this journey has been as fun for you as it has been for me. This has been a very good year for wildflower photography. My searches have taken me east to the Carolina coast, south to Florida, and as far west as Arizona. Although orchids are my specialty, I have grown fond of all of our other colorful wildflowers. I hope to renew the wildflower blog posts early next year — in South Carolina, we do have a couple of orchid species in bloom beginning in late February.
Until then… happy hunting, and always use a tripod! 😉