Wild Plants on the Rabbit!
South Carolina supports a rich and diverse collection of plant life, partly because of its high rainfall and the variety of physiographic regions within its borders.
The southern Appalachians, considered one of the most biologically diverse regions of the temperate world, include the mountains of our northwest corner. Many species are endemic to this region and found nowhere else in the world. The rolling foothills of our Piedmont region were once home to “Piedmont prairies” with a plant palette similar to that of Midwestern prairies.
However, much of this land has been used and abused since the 1700s, the mountains timbered, the rich soil of its gentle foothills eroded and exhausted by cotton, the rivers polluted by the mills and industries which gravitated to their banks.
The Swamp Rabbit Trail follows the path of an old shortline railroad that carried freight (often timber) from the mountains above Marietta into Greenville. Some of the Trail also parallels the Reedy River. It’s a delightful glimpse into our communal “backyard” — where the plants have been left to fend for themselves.
Nature is resilient. Over the years, the forests began to grow back. The soil lost downstream can never be recovered, but life stored deep in the seedbank continues to emerge. Our citizenry has worked to clean up the waters.
Where the Trail is crisscrossed by utility lines, prairie plants emerge: Indian-hemp, Splitbeard Bluestem, a multitude of Sunflowers, Asters and Goldenrods. Where the river spreads out into floodplains or beavers do their work, wetland plants thrive — Cardinal Flower, Spotted Jewelweed, Allegheny Monkey-flower, even the globally rare, federally protected Bunched Arrowhead!
But backyards can also become dumping grounds, and the Swamp Rabbit Trail exposes heretofore hidden (and ignored) infestations of invasive plants.
What is an invasive plant? To answer that, it helps to understand that naturally occurring plants and animals tend to interact with one another to maintain an evolving balance, an intact ecosystem appropriate to a particular landform, elevation, geology, soil type, moisture, etc. There are many different types of natural communities, several of which are encountered along the Trail. (Click here to read more.)
When an invasive plant enters that ecosystem, the balance is disrupted. What was a rich medley of plant species supporting a wide assortment of wildlife becomes a botanical desert of one or two species. Very few other plants thrive after Privet blankets a floodplain or Kudzu swallows a field.
It behooves us to pay attention to the identity of the plants taking up residence in our green spaces….
The Native Plant Society is in the process of compiling a list of plants
that appear to be growing wild along the Swamp Rabbit Trail.
This list currently numbers almost 400 species, many of which are featured in Wild Plants on the Rabbit.
To search for a plant
on the Trail by “describing it”,
You can pick up a copy of Wild Plants on the Rabbit
at these outlets:
Cafe @ Williams Hardware
Greenville County Parks, Recreation & Tourism (office)
Greenville Visitors Center
Lake Conestee Nature Park (office)
Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery
United Community Bank (Travelers Rest)
— more coming! —
Click here to submit your own Swamp Rabbit Trail pictures
to the Native Plant Society for identification.