Join the Upstate Native Plant Society’s January meeting as botanist and naturalist David Campbell shares his survey of the rare and unusual plants of Polk County.
Polk County lies just on the other side of the North Carolina line, centered over the counties of Greenville and Spartanburg. It is home to the towns of Saluda, Columbus, and Tryon, to the wildflower preserve known as Pearson’s Falls and Glen, and to an impressive array of mountains and a swath of rolling foothills.
Botanist David Campbell has been cataloging the plant life of Polk County on behalf of the herbarium at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte since about 2012. Why Polk County?
“It’s a neat county because it goes from the piedmont to the mountains,” he said. “There’s a lot of geological diversity, the soils are very unusual, very nutrient-rich, so there’s some neat things to be found there.” Neat things to be found, but over fifty years since any significant body of field research had been done!
Part of the county is located within the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment, where the Blue Ridge Mountains abruptly rise from the rolling piedmont, an area that contains some of the highest natural diversity of rare plants and animals found anywhere in the world. Polk County is also widely known for its unusual “thermal belt” — a zone within mountains or foothills with a milder climate and longer growing season than elevations either higher or lower.
Polk’s interesting plant life includes oddball “disjuncts” that are more than 500 miles away from where they are normally found, and it is said to hold the only North Carolina occurrences of plants such as the Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens), whorled horsebalm (Collinsonia verticillata), Ozark bunchflower (Veratrum woodii), and thicket creeper (Parthenocissus inserta).
Polk also supports plant communities such as you might expect to see along the Carolina Coast. In the hills south of Columbus, Campbell discovered a population of 200 sweetbay magnolia trees (Magnolia virginiana), something more often found in Coastal Plain pocosins, swamps and seeps.
David Campbell has worked for Habitat Assessment and Restoration Professionals(HARP), based in Charlotte, since 2003,and he has over 25 years of experience as an Ecologist and Botanist studying the biota of North America, the United Kingdom, and areas of the Neotropics. David has particular expertise in conducting surveys for rare and threatened species throughout the southeastern United States.
While the meeting starts at 7pm, please arrive at 6:30 to enjoy refreshments and socializing. Start 2018 with your friends from NPS!