The Lowcountry Chapter of the South Carolina Native Plant Society is pleased to offer our Lowcountry Chapter Grant Program. Part of our mission is to promote native plants through planting, outreach, education, and the removal of exotic species. Our Lowcountry Chapter Grants Program gives us the ability to support local projects that align with this mission. There are two separate funding opportunities: one for School Projects and one for Community Projects. If your organization, community group, or school is interested in working with native plants in any capacity, we invite you to consider applying for one of our grants!
Spring applications will be accepted January 1 — February 10, 2023. For application guidelines, please refer to this Lowcountry Chapter Grant Program document. If you have questions, contact Matt Johnson (email address provided in linked document).
Community Grant Overview
Community Projects must be directed at protecting, preserving, restoring, and/or educating the public about native plants or plant communities in the Lowcountry of South Carolina (we are currently only considering projects in Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, and Horry counties). Priority will be given to those projects involving public land, cultural significance, rare species, or the removal of invasive/exotic species. The maximum award amount for Community Grants is $1000.
School Grant Overview
School projects must be directed at educating students about native plants or plant communities in the Lowcountry of South Carolina (we are currently only considering projects in Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester Georgetown, and Horry counties). Priority will be given to those projects involving cultural significance, rare species, or the removal of invasive/exotic species. The maximum award amount for School Grants is $500.
Kay Wade of Jocassee Wild Outdoor Education on “Jocassee Gorges: The Perfect Outdoor Classroom”
You may know it as the home to the elusive Oconee Bell, but according to National Geographic Magazine, the Jocassee Gorges ecoregion is one of “the world’s last great places” (number nine out of 50, in fact — but who’s counting?). But what makes it a mecca for hikers, fishermen, botanists, herpetologists, mycologists, geologists, and loon researchers alike? Beyond the stunning beauty of the mountains and waterfalls, what has made this place a “crucible of life” through times of change? And of utmost importance, who is going to protect this uniquely special land in the future?
Seeking to provide some answers to these questions, Kay Wade of Jocassee Wild Outdoor Education will be joining the Upstate Chapter at its February 21st meeting, presenting a talk entitled “Jocassee Gorges: The Perfect Outdoor Classroom!”
About Jocassee Wild Outdoor Education
Jocassee Wild Outdoor Education, a 501(c)3 non-profit, is dedicated to introducing people – from children to senior citizens – to the many mysteries and wonders of the Jocassee Gorges, bringing participants to a deeper understanding (personal, ecological and social) of the importance of the region’s wild, pristine, spaces, and to what we can all do to help protect it for generations to come.
The meeting will be at Tri-County Technical College in Pendleton, in the Parker Auditorium (between Oconee Hall and Pickens Hall). The presentation will begin at 7pm, but socializing begins at 6:30. The meeting will also be available via Zoom.
In December the SCNPS sent a letter to the South Carolina Public Service Commission with our comments pertaining to their proposed changes to the approval process for future gas pipeline projects. The current regulations do not provide sufficient transparency to enable interested organizations like SCNPS, Upstate Forever, and others to either fully assess the impacts or provide timely comments. Read the letter and stay tuned for more news as it develops.
For the past four years, Virginia Meador has served as the Upstate Chapter President. Generally, terms of office run for two years, but in November 2020 Virginia volunteered to stay on for a second “Covid” term. During that time, she worked with the Board of Directors as they made the myriad difficult decisions canceling in-person activities, including general meetings, plant sales, and field trips. During her tenure and through her leadership we learned to hold meetings by Zoom; plant sales via online ordering; and field trips through camaraderie-by-newsletter.
Post-Covid, one of her last official acts as President was signing the contract between the Upstate Chapter and the Conestee Foundation leasing land in the Conestee Nature Preserve as a new site for the Upstate Native Nursery.
Virginia’s commitment to the SCNPS and its mission has been deep and long. Before becoming President, she served as both Field Trips Chair and Board Vice-President; she continues to serve on the Board as Past President. And she loves to lead native plant walks and to share her knowledge of the natural world through “hands-on” teaching.
Virginia’s signature opening at meetings was, “Welcome to the Upstate Chapter, where we work to save the world, one native plant at a time.” As we offer her our thanks for her many years of dedication and service, we’d also like to add: Yes, Virginia, we (with your help) will continue to work to save the world!
Some years back, my wife Sharon and I bought a small house (1400 square feet) and a few acres (3.7) in Liberty, SC, located midway between her job in Greenville and mine in Clemson. There was a parenthesis-shaped driveway with a couple of water oaks between the drive and the road. There was also a bare above-ground pool site on the eastern side of the house. Because the house faced south, we had water-oak shade in the summer, and good sun in the winter.
Our first project was to make a plan for the pool site. It was 30 feet in diameter and consisted of 4 inches of sand over 3 inches of gravel over the ubiquitous native upstate red clay. It made a good above-ground pool site, but a helluva place to start a lawn. So, what to do?
A Prairie is Born
I had a strong interest in historic native Eastern Piedmont Prairies and had a collection of local-source perennial native prairie grass and wildflower transplant plugs on hand. So, I marked off a grid on the 30-foot circular site and started punching holes through the sand and gravel into the clay. In early autumn I started transplanting the prairie plants on 4-foot spacings. It didn’t look like much to begin with, but with the help of a wonderful coffee-table book(John Madson’s Tallgrass Prairies, now sadly out of print), I convinced the love of my life that it would have a beautiful future.
Our water bill was considerable that fall, as we nursed the roots of these plants through 7 inches of arid sand and gravel to where there was actual ground water. But I looked like a genius late in the winter, when Indiangrass, big bluestem, and eastern gamagrass plants co-emerged with perennial sunflowers, gayfeathers, leadplants, milkweeds, and false indigoes.
Yellow Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans)
White false indigo (Baptisia albescens)
Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Blazing star (Liatris spicata)
Tall grass prairies in the East need to be control-burned at least every two to three years to prevent the reclamation of the land by pines and hardwoods. So, every late winter, after a rain has dampened the surrounding vegetation, I catch the wind blowing in the right direction and speed and light my small gas torch. I slice the standing dead vegetation canopy into narrow (4- to 5-foot–wide) strips with flame. This method prevents the standing material from igniting all at once and creating a large, uncontrolled flame. The dead standing vegetation burns down to the soil surface. The herbaceous perennial grasses and wildflowers regenerate each year from buds on the roots and crowns of the prairie species, while any tree seedlings present are thoroughly heat-girdled at the soil surface. This either kills the seedlings or forces them to grow back slowly and under the season-long shading of the taller grasses and wildflowers. (If fire seems risky to you, the effect of burning can be simulated by a close mowing in late winter with thorough removal of the clippings — good feedstock for your composting system.)
Prairie recovery, mid-April
Our little prairie has never looked back, even in the total absence of applied lime, fertilizer, and pesticides. It has been a draw for pollinator insects and songbird parents shopping for caterpillars. The milkweeds have attracted monarchs and other butterfly species. We have seen wild turkey moms with 4 to 5 babies (called poults) inside our fenced-in backyard. A high point was flushing a pair of bobwhite quail and seven small quail chicks from the prairie about 20 feet from my back door! We built it, and, yes, they really did come!
Red-spotted purple butterfly on elderberry Photo Credit: Herman Jensen
We’re always on the lookout for new and improved sources of information relative to our South Carolina native plants and habitats. While we knew the American Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis) is a beautiful native shrub, we didn’t know it’s also a host plant for 27 (yes, twenty-seven!!!) species of moths and butterflies!
According to the nifty new Native Plant Finder from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), that’s the case. And although the new site is still under construction, it’s a useful (and fun!) addition to our Native Plant Tool Box.
In December 2022 the United Nations sponsored a biodiversity conference in Montreal; 190 nations agreed that protecting biodiversity has to be a priority. This is a HUGE win for the global movement to protect, preserve and restore biodiversity. Many of the concerns set forth in what is being called the 30x30x30 agreement align closely to those of the SCNPS, such as destruction of habitats and invasive alien species.
For those of you with a life, I’ll attempt to boil it all down!
Just what is COP15?
COP15 is shorthand for the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This is a separate initiative from COP27 which focuses on climate change, but there are some overlaps.
What have the Parties agreed to?
The 190 nations agreed to a treaty that sets as a goal meeting the terms of the Kunming Declaration, which calls for each nation to forever preserve 30% of their land and 30% of their water resources by 2030 (thus the 30x30x30 handle). That may seem like a lot, and it is; it’s an important step. (In his final book, Half Earth, Nobel prize-winning biologist E.O.Wilson proposed that the only way to save our own species was to set aside half the earth as protected ecosystems not later than 2100.)
Per Brian O’Donnell, director of the Campaign for Nature: “The ‘30x30x30’ target marks the largest land and ocean conservation commitment in history. It will have major positive impacts for wildlife, for addressing climate change, and for securing the services that nature provides to people, including clean water and crop pollination.”
“The biosphere and the 10 million species that compose it can no longer be treated as a commodity, but as something vastly more important—a mysterious entity still beyond the boundaries of our imagination yet vital to long-term human existence.” E.O.Wilson
Is the USA one of the Parties?
In the 1980s it was the United States who championed the idea of a Biodiversity Treaty, and the US was also influential in getting the effort off the ground in the early 1990s. However, in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit the US was not one of the 150 nations who signed up for the world’s most important international agreement to conserve biodiversity, the Convention on Biological Diversity (sometimes referred to as “The Treaty of Life”). That treaty is designed to protect species, ecosystems, and genetic diversity, and to push countries to create national biodiversity strategies and to expand their networks of protected areas.
The problem is that treaties like this one require a two-thirds Senate majority, and some of our Senators argue that CBD (or almost any treaty) would infringe on American sovereignty, put commercial interests at risk, impose constraints on US Constitutional independence, create redistributionist schemes, and/or impose a financial burden.
CAUSES OF BIODIVERSITY LOSS
Destruction of habitats.
Invasive alien species.
Overexploitation of the natural environment.
That may be the case, but the world doesn’t belong to just us. So, in 2021, the Biden administration launched the America the Beautiful Initiative, which does target the 30x30x30 goals. That’s good news, but it now begs the question:
What Can I Do?
Dillon County Welcome Center Fence Garden
Unsurprisingly, native plants are at the core of healthy biodiversity, and you don’t have to look any further than your own yard for opportunities to contribute to global 30x30x30 goal.
The Lowcountry Chapter of the SCNPS is excited to announce that we will return to in-person meetings in January! We will be back in our traditional location pre-COVID: the Biology Auditorium in Duckett Hall at The Citadel (2 Jones Ave, Charleston, SC 29409). Mark your calendar for these Tuesdays at 6:30 pm: 1/17, 2/21, 3/21, 4/18 and 5/16. Program speakers and field trips will be announced in the new year.
Congratulations and thanks to our Lowcountry board members for 2023:
President: Samantha Porzelt
Vice President: Austin Trousdale
Lectures: Sharleen Johnson
Field Trips: Amber Von Harten
Plant Sale Chair: Eddie Bernard
Publicity: Laura Moses
Hospitality: Jennifer Bremer
Membership: Caroline Wright
Education and Outreach: Lauren Boyd
Grants Coordinator: Matt Johnson
Representative to State Board: Montana Feix
Board Members at Large: Colette DeGarady & Katie Ellis
The Nature Conservancy’s Kristen Austin on “The Blue Wall Reserve”
On Tuesday, January 17th at 7:00 pm at Landrum Depot in Landrum, SC (and also via Zoom), Kristen Austin of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) will be presenting: “The Blue Wall Preserve: A Natural Resource Light in the Dark Corner.”
The Blue Wall Preserve, located just outside of Landrum, SC, has been owned and managed by TNC since 1997; they are now in the process of developing a dam removal project. During the presentation, you’ll learn how this project will restore the hydrology of Vaughn’s Creek, a South Carolina Outstanding Resource Water and headwater to the Broad River Basin.
The program is free and open to the public. Arrive at 6:30 for socializing and refreshments. Landrum Depot is at 211 S 562, Landrum, SC 29356. The meeting can also be accessed via Zoom.
Kristen Austin is TNC’s Upstate Conservation Director. She has worked with TNC since 1998 when she began her career as the statewide volunteer coordinator to advance land management projects on Nature Conservancy preserves in Missouri. She later launched a grassland conservation program in southwest Missouri working with farmers and ranchers on habitat management to benefit both conservation and the local economy.
In 2004, Kristen transferred to the Conservancy’s South Carolina Chapter to establish an office in Greenville focusing on forest and freshwater initiatives across 19 counties in the Upstate of South Carolina stretching from the Blue Ridge to the Piedmont. She works with her colleagues and partners on multiple natural resource management projects to create tangible, lasting conservation results. A few examples of this work include:
Managing real estate transactions to conserve lands and waters
Co-leading multi-state and agency partnerships for forest health
Holding a stakeholder seat for the Broad River Basin Council for the State Water Plan
Since moving to Greenville, Kristen has been active in the Upstate South Carolina community, serving on the City of Greenville’s Green Ribbon Committee from 2016-2020 and receiving the Community Spirit Award in 2011, among many other achievements and honors.
Kristen Austin with Yellow Lady Slipper orchids
Prior to The Nature Conservancy, Kristen was an outdoor educator and taught at field schools in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the Pacific Northwest. Her teaching background instilled in her the importance of connecting people with nature. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee with a double major in Environmental Sciences, and Religious Studies. In her free time, you will find her out hiking with her husband, Erik, and dog, Max, or focused on University of TN football and basketball, or out on the Pickleball court.
Kristen has two life sayings which inform all of her work:
“Leave a place better than the way you found it.”
“To those whom much is given, much is to be expected.”
Friends of Jocassee sponsored Perk up the Park day at Keowee-Toxaway State Park Saturday, November 12th, and several conservation organizations pitched in to support the effort. The Upstate Native Nursery supplied many of the 130 native plants went into the ground around the visitor’s center that were then mulched and watered. Devils Fork State Park provided the mulch. Jon Fritz of Bluestem Landscape Design led the project and also supplied some of his plants. Jon spoke of the value of Fall planting where the roots have plenty of time to establish and develop before sending out the new growth next Spring.
Around 25 people participated in this group effort including State Park staff, SC Native Plant Society, Friends of Jocassee and Upstate Master Naturalist volunteers. The event was scheduled from 9 am until noon, but the work was done in about an hour with plenty of socializing and networking going on. It was a fun day and a job well done.