Upstate: Rare and Unusual Plants in the Carolinas

Posted on |

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.