Bunched Arrowhead (Sagittaria fasciculata)
Sagittaria fasciculata, commonly called Bunched Arrowhead, is a small herbaceous plant that grows in wetlands. It’s the only member of the Sagittaria genus that doesn’t have arrowhead-shaped leaves. It grows about 15 inches tall and blooms mid-May through July. This plant produces edible tubers that were heavily collected by the native Americans as a food source. Submerged leaves are long and narrow, round in cross-section. Emerging leaves are flat, broadly ovate or lanceolate.
Endangered. Sagittaria fasciculata is only known to be found in Henderson and Buncombe counties in North Carolina plus Greenville and Laurens counties in South Carolina. The seepage habitat in which Sagittaria fasciculata occurs is extremely threatened, and remaining Sagittaria fasciculata populations are threatened by residential and industrial development, conversion to pasture, and invasive exotic species.
Source: North Carolina State University
Preservation Efforts: Only a few intact populations of bunched arrowhead are still struggling to exist. They used to live in piedmont springhead seepage forests, according to “A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina.” The best sites are near Travelers Rest, on coveted lands near the banks of the Reedy, Enoree and Tyger rivers. These forests begin at seepages below hillsides. Year-round, cool, slow-moving groundwater slowly percolates out from Pacolet sandy loam soils. Good examples of this community’s diversity include cinnamon fern, Solomon’s seal, running cedar, and partridge berry. More rare denizens might include the dwarf-flower heartleaf and the climbing fern. Puttyroot orchid and pipsissewa dot the upslope. Small green wood-orchids grace the seep’s edges. The remaining seepage forests are threatened by non-point-source (NPS) pollution, upslope disturbance (bulldozers), and lack of conservation planning/easements. There is, however, a bright spot. In a 2001 report written by soil scientist Dr. Dave Hargett, the Reedy River Task Force states that it planned to preserve four rare, threatened or endangered species, including the piedmont ragwort, wild goldenrod, bunched arrowhead and sweet pinesap. In addition, Upstate Forever, a local conservation group, has just received a large grant to open a Spartanburg county office.
Three protected areas harbor populations of the bunched arrowhead: an SCDNR site, and Furman University. Both locations are perilously close to development and roads that could disrupt their flow and pollute them.
Blackwell Heritage Preserve
The 15.8-acre Blackwell Heritage Preserve is located within an intricate network of springs and small streams that drain hilly topography bordering the narrow floodplain of the Enoree River. The streams are well-channeled with some flow throughout the year. Although they eventually merge with the floodplain of the Enoree, these streams are spring-fed and not dependent upon seasonal flooding of the river. This produces constant groundwater seepage and extensive saturated soil conditions, which are quite rare in the Upstate and are classified as Piedmont seepage forests. As the name implies, the vegetation is dominated by hydrophytic tree species that include red maple, swamp tupelo, gum, American elm and pumpkin ash. Increased development around the preserve increases runoff which sometimes scours the seepage sites.
The seepages and streams provide habitat for the federally-endangered plant species, bunched arrowhead. Approximately 75 percent of the preserve is wetlands and over 10 acres are accessible only by wading the Enoree River. The small portion of land not in wetlands is dominated by Virginia pine. Pink lady slipper orchids can be observed in the pine areas.
A portion of the preserve was acquired via wetlands mitigation by the SC Department of Transportation.
The Blackwell Heritage Preserve was not located on Google Maps as of this posting (19Nov20) and it is not to be confused with the Bunched Arrowhead Preserve which is nearby. From Greenville, go north to Travelers Rest on Highway 25. Continue through Travelers Rest and turn right onto Blue Ridge Drive (just past the El Grande Mexican and next to the Blue Ridge Creamery cheese shop). A mile or so on the left is the entrance to the Heritage Preserve (you will see blue paint marks on the trees before the left turn in). There is a red gate that will be open so you can park in the pasture or on the shoulder of the road.
Bunched Arrowhead Heritage Preserve
The Bunched Arrowhead Heritage Preserve was purchased with the assistance of Nature Conservancy funds. Near Travelers Rest, the SCDNR manages it as a Heritage Trust Program site. They use small prescribed burns and bushogging, and have placed many nest boxes for owls, bats, bluebirds, etc. The preserve is a great birdwatching locale, according to Harry Davis, president of the Greenville Birdwatchers. Winter birds include fox sparrows, kinglets, and great blue herons. Summer residents include the tanager, yellowthroat warbler, woodpeckers, grasshopper sparrows, blue grosbeaks, and quail. Other standouts include buntings, flycatchers, vireos and chats. Kestrels and hawks soar above the open areas. This amazing diversity on 160 acres is supported by the upland slopes ecotones and the forested seeps. “This preserve represents the best chance for the bunched arrowhead’s (Sagittaria fasciculata) long-term survival. People don’t realize that these unimportant-looking little wet places harbor some of the rarest creatures on Earth. These little seeps are so endemic. They are vulnerable. Please visit them carefully and gently,” says Mary Bunch, their SCDNR manager.
Furman University Preserve:
Furman University’s site was discovered by their botanist in the 1950’s. Leland Rodgers was surveying the north end of the future Furman Lake and discovered a plant he couldn’t identify. When he took a specimen to Duke, visiting botanist E.O. Beal identified it as the bunched arrowhead, already considered one of the world’s rarest plants. Privately owned Furman has an agreement with the SCDNR to protect and preserve its tiny colony. The little side path winds along near the Meditation Garden. A new observation deck overlooks the seepage stream. (Funded by the SC Governors and the National Wildlife Federation.) SCDNR signs caution that it’s a protected site. The low-key approach in the isolated area hopefully insures that it won’t be overrun with visitors. Nearby, joggers and walkers trot across an arched stone bridge; most never knowing that little rare plants are peeking out of the mucky seeps just upstream. Biology professor Travis Perry says, “This deck will be an educational tool, raising awareness about the plant’s existence here. The bunched arrowhead has educational and intrinsic value. We do not have the power to replace it, so we have a moral obligation to preserve it.”
Source: South Carolina Wildlife Fund