Roadside Botanizing

by Bill Stringer

The Upstate Chapter is planning a series of what we refer to as “roadside botanizing” field trips, in which we carpool to previously scouted sites along country roadsides.  Not your normal native plant hike, but it offers some real advantages: 1) Country roadsides are infrequently mowed and/or sprayed with herbicide, just enough to keep trees from taking over the roadside.  This enables a wide variety of herbaceous natives to establish and persist; 2) We have the mobility to visit a wide variety of soil conditions in the span of a day; and 3) We can cater to a wider variety of age groups than can participate in a hike.

On Saturday, Jun 26, we hosted our first roadside botany field trip of 2021 into Oconee County, including stops in the Andrew Pickens US Forest Service District.  Our stops included a roadside/utility right-of-way (ROW) near Clemson, a trip to Pine Mountain in the National Forest, and a third stop in a frequently burned open site in the Forest, near Long Creek.

At the Clemson site we saw 17 native herbaceous species, including goat’s rue, both smooth and fuzzy varieties of greater tickseed, Georgia aster, anise-scented goldenrod, and butterfly milkweed, as well as silky oatgrass and blackseed needlegrass (see Latin names and website links in a list below}.

Our next stop was along a USFS roadside on Pine Mountain.  It was a long, curvy, dusty ride to the site. The site is an annually mowed roadside/powerline ROW.  The managed strip was from 10 to 20 feet wide, bordered by pine and hardwood forest.  The high diversity in the managed strip was mostly native herbaceous species, while the herbaceous diversity under the adjoining forest was very low.  The list includes the species we saw at Clemson plus two butterfly pea species, spiked hoary pea (a close relative of goat’s rue), slender lespedeza, trailing lespedeza, pencil flower, cat-claw sensitive briar and white-topped aster, well as hill cane.

The final stop was an open site near Long Creek which is burned every 2-3 years.  The big thrill on this site was a bus-sized densely growing population of big bluestem, a major component of the midwestern tall-grass prairies.  New species here also included eastern silver aster, New Jersey tea, spiked wild indigo, and horsefly weed.

We went to one more USFS roadside to look for yellow fringed orchid, but it appeared that the roadside mower guy got there first.

We ate our picnic lunches at the Long Creek Fire Station, where we were treated to bake sale fried pies by Jackie Burke of our roadside team.  Another thrill was seeing the General Lee, the iconic orange Dodge Charger muscle car from the 1970’s Dukes of Hazard TV show.

I have always been a fan of country roadsides and utility ROWs, and this early summer botanizing trip was a huge success!

Participants included Jackie Burke, Bill Putnam, Seth Harrison, Adam Bailey, Janie Marlow, and Bill Stringer (who brought along his border collie, Jay, who had the most fun of all!)

List of Native Herbaceous Species Spotted

Note:  The underlined blue Latin names are links to the species pages on the USDA Plants Database
( )  Clicking on these links will take you to the species webpages.  Most of the images on the pages can be enlarged by clicking on them.

>Goat’s rue  Tephrosia virginiana

>Greater tickseed  Coreopsis major

>Butterfly milkweed  Asclepias tuberosa

>Georgia aster Symphyotrichum georgianum  Google elsewhere for image

>Anise-scented goldenrod  Solidago odora

>Silky oatgrass (downy danthonia) Danthonia sericea

>Black seed needlegrass  Piptochaetium avenaceum  

>Butterfly pea (Atlantic pigeonwingsClitoria mariana

>Butterfly pea (spurred butterfly pea)  Centrosema virginianum

>Spiked hoary pea  Tephrosia spicata

>Slender bush clover (lespedeza) Lespedeza virginica

>Trailing lespedeza  Lespedeza procumbens 

>Pencil flower  Stylosanthes biflora

>Little leaf sensitive briar  Mimosa microphylla 

>Narrowleaf white top aster  Sericocarpus linifolius 

>Hill cane  Arundinaria appalachiana  Google elsewhere for an image

>Big bluestem Andropogon gerardii  Andropogon gerardii

>Eastern silvery aster  Symphyotrichum concolor

>New Jersey tea  Ceanothus americanus 

>Spiked wild indigo Baptisia albescens Google elsewhere for image

>Horsefly weed  Baptisia tinctoria

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