Field trips to South Carolina prairies

 

October 20 and 21, 2017

In celebration of South Carolina’s Native Plant Week (Oct 16 – 20) the Midlands and Piedmont Chapters of the SC Native Plant Society are hosting field trips to some uniquely interesting natural native plant communities in our area.

South Carolina has a lot of natural diversity for a state of our size, and two of the most interesting sites are the Post Oak Savanna and the Blackjack Oak Savanna.

The Post Oak Savanna is a 50-acre spot in the Long Cane District of the Sumter National Forest. It is located on shallow stony soils in what geologists call the Carolina Slate Belt. These soils restrict rooting depth, so trees on this site are mainly short-statured hardwoods like post oak (Quercus stellata). Larger trees occasionally establish, but with shallow roots, they are subject to wind-throw. Thus the tree canopy is thin, allowing native grasses and wildflowers to establish underneath. So in a region of almost complete forest cover, we find short, thinly spaced trees, and lots of native grasses and wildflowers, similar those in Midwestern tall grass prairies.

The SC Dept. of Natural Resources’ Blackjack Oak Savanna is found on the edge of Rock Hill, in an area of basic rock geology. These basic rocks break down into high calcium, high magnesium soils with near neutral pH. These soils contain a clay type that swells when wet, and shrinks and cracks when dry. This shrinking and swelling is damaging to tree roots. Blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica), another short-statured tree, is more tolerant of these conditions than most other trees. Again, short, thinly spaced trees allow maintenance of native grasses and wildflowers. These two sites contain a large number of prairie-type grasses and wildflowers (some quite rare in our State) that persist naturally, and are unique in the largely forested Piedmont of SC.

The Midlands group will lead a trip to the Post Oak Savanna on Friday, Oct. 20. Meet the group at the Walmart Superstore on Bush River Rd, just off I-20 at 9:30, to carpool to the site, arriving about 10:30. Wear long pants and sturdy shoes, and bring water and a snack. There is a half-mile level walk to the site.

On Saturday, October 21 the Piedmont group will lead a trip to the Blackjacks site. The 10:00 meeting spot in Rock Hill is at the Blackjack Oaks Heritage Preserve parking area off Blackmon Rd. There is limited parking, so please carpool.

For detailed directions to the Post Oaks, go to https://www.fs.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsinternet/cs/recarea?ss=110812&navtype=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&cid=FSE_003738&navid=110240000000000&pnavid=110000000000000&position=generalinfo&recid=47217&ttype=recarea&pname=Post%20Oak%20Savanna

For detailed directions to the Rock Hill Blackjacks, go to https://www.sctrails.net/trails/trail/rock-hill-blackjacks-heritage-preserve

For further information on the Post Oaks trip, contact Marigold Wilson ([email protected]) or Bill McCullough ([email protected]).

For further information on the Blackjack Oaks trip, contact Mitzi Stewart ([email protected]).

Comments are closed.