Upstate: Rare and Unusual Plants in the Carolinas

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Note: This program will take place at the Wilkins Conference Center at Roper Mountain Science Center in Greenville.  This is a new meeting facility for the Upstate Chapter.

David White’s passion is protecting rare plants and rare communities and supporting the sustainability of these. “Our presence in those places is important, especially those in challenging conditions,” says David. He sees the effects of vegetation management, including prescribed burns, for less woody, more open habitat. David feels fortunate to be doing the work he does, often at the wildland/urban interface, at boundaries of private property.

Listening to White talk about Longleaf Pines and Shortleaf Pines is like hearing a man talk about his friends. His favorite is the Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata), which he affectionately refers to as his “totem”. David describes it as a “stately, beautiful tree” which he considers a keystone species of primarily the Piedmont and lower Blue Ridge.

“Before the large scale land use change to agriculture and destructive logging practices, it was part of the very common oak-pine forest and woodland ecosystem when fire and native grazers helped maintain open woodland and prairie-like conditions, in which several of our present-day rare plants likely were more common: Smooth Purple Coneflower (Echinacea laevigata), Georgia Aster (Symphytrichum georgianum), and Sunfacing Coneflower (Rudbeckia heliopsidis).”

David’s career has led to a variety of projects and publications. His work has included: Roan Mountain Grassy Bald Restoration in Pisgah National Forest, Southern Pine Beetle Prevention-Thinning and Longleaf Pine Restoration in Uwharrie and Croatan National Forests, monitoring change in Southern Appalachian populations of Ramps (Allium ricoccum), the land use history of the Savannah River Site, and prescribed fire for ecological restoration in Linville Gorge Wilderness and Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge.

Most recently, David has been involved with:
• invasive species control and River Cane restoration efforts in the Andrew Pickens District of Sumter National Forest
• botanical surveys identifying rare plants, rare communities, and invasives, on the Long Cane Ranger District of Sumter
National Forest
• status survey of Smooth Coneflower in South Carolina
• Georgia Aster monitoring in Long Cane District of Sumter National Forest, and
• assessing integrity of Longleaf Pine ecosystems in Francis Marion National Forest.

At his presentation on March 20, David will be talking about these and other recent projects.

David White has deep roots in the Carolina Piedmont. He grew up in Easley during the years that environmental concern in our country was also growing. As a Biology major at Wofford College in the 1970s, he was inspired by Dr. Gibbes Patton. David briefly considered medicine as a career, following his own father and the path of many Biology majors at Wofford, but plants called him to pursue graduate work in Plant Ecology at the University of Georgia. Today David lives on family land in Pickens, returned to forest after recovering from farming for cotton and corn.


Upstate Speaker: Rare Flora of Polk County

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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!

Upstate: Polk County’s “Most Wanted”

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Polk County, NC, is located along the North Carolina and South Carolina border, between Henderson and Rutherford Counties. It is home to the towns of Saluda, Columbus, and Tryon, as well as a wild and picturesque section of the Broad River Basin. The western half of the county contains magnificent peaks belonging to the Blue Ridge Mountains, with a vast stretch of foothills transitioning to the piedmont in the eastern part of the county. Naturally, with such varied elevation and terrain in such a relatively small swatch of land, the botanical and biological diversity abounds.

Pam Torlina, Director of Stewardship and Land Protection for the Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC), has been studying the habitats of Western North Carolina and the Upstate of South Carolina for over 13 years. While PAC’s conservation endeavors extend beyond the borders of Polk County, Pam, alongside botanist David Campbell, has spearheaded a localized effort to further study this particular part of the state. The program, entitled “Polk County’s Most Wanted”, has a more refined focus of locating, and on occasion relocating, rare and unusual species and habitats distributed throughout Polk County alone.

The county’s placement within the Blue Ridge Mountain range, combined with the unique geological features of the area, provide opportunities for uncommon vegetation and wildlife to survive great distances from their typical native regions. By involving PAC supporters and the broader community, the program seeks to locate dozens of hard-to-find plants and animals currently thought to reside within the county lines. Some of these species have not been observed for many years in Polk County, so it is exciting indeed when one is “discovered”!

Pam has been with the Pacolet Area Conservancy for 10 years, and has over 20 years experience as a field biologist, naturalist and interpreter, outdoor educator, and wilderness tour guide. She has worked with the South Carolina State Park Service, the City of Greenville Parks and Recreation-Youth Bureau, the New York State Office of Parks and Recreation and Historic Preservation, and Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve, in Haliburton, Ontario, Canada. She designed and taught a natural science education program that won the state-wide South Carolina Parks and Recreation Association Arts and Programming Branch award for the most Innovative Program of the Year.

At our April meeting Pam will explain the fundamentals of the “Polk County’s Most Wanted” program, highlighting the steps involved with finding notoriously difficult-to-locate species, as well as share the successes the program has already enjoyed. She will also discuss some of the more interesting flora and fauna that comprise the “Most Wanted” list, and give us a brief overview of the botanical history of the county.

Polk County provides a truly unique snapshot of the biodiversity the Southern Appalachians are famous for, and its accessibility from the Upstate makes it easy to enjoy. Come learn about what makes Polk County so amazing, and discover a whole new appreciation for the conservation efforts taking place there.

Pam Torlina

Director of Stewardship/Land Protection, Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC)


Tuesday, April 19, 7:00 pm

Landrum Depot, 211 N. Trade, Landrum, SC