Save the Date: September 19, 6:30-8:00, Greenville
Alan S. Weakley: “It’s not your Grandfather’s Flora: New Floristic Tools for Information, Appreciation, and Conservation of South Carolina’s Plants”
A self-described plant systematist, plant community ecologist, biogeographer, and conservation biologist focused on the species and systems of the Southeastern United States, Alan S. Weakley is also the creator of the invaluable “Flora of the Southeastern United States,” available as a PDF, web app, and mobile apps.
In this presentation he’ll explore the rich biological diversity of South Carolina and talk about how we’re still learning about (and learning to see) “the real World” around us. He’ll discuss new tools that are being developed to make it easier to explore the plants growing in the Upstate of South Carolina. In his own words: “There will be pictures of beautiful plants, discussion of how humans identify plants, discussion of why plant names sometimes change, and an introduction to identifying wild plants for the novice and the expert.”
Alan Weakley is a plant taxonomist, community ecologist, and conservationist specializing in the Southeastern United States. He holds a B.A. from UNC-Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. from Duke University. He has worked as botanist and ecologist for the N.C. Natural Heritage Program, and as regional and chief ecologist for The Nature Conservancy and NatureServe, and currently serves as Director of the UNC-CH Herbarium, a department of the N.C. Botanical Garden, and teaches as adjunct faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill and at the Highlands Biological Station. In the course of his career, he has worked cooperatively with most federal and state land-managing agencies in the southeastern United States.
Alan is author of the Flora of the Southeastern United States and its app version, FloraQuest, and co-author (with Chris Ludwig and Johnny Townsend) of the Flora of Virginia and the Flora of Virginia App, which have received awards including the Thomas Jefferson Award for Conservation. He is also co-author (with Laura Cotterman and Damon Waitt) of Wildflowers of the Atlantic Southeast. Working with a team of botanists and data scientists across the southeastern United States, Alan is leading a project to complete an enhanced version of the Flora of the Southeastern United States and also develop a series of apps, FloraQuest, covering the 25 state region.
The FloraQuest apps are designed by Alan and the Southeastern Flora Team as a modernized reinvention of “the flora”, designed to present the standard kinds of information usually found in a scientific flora (dichotomous keys, information on habitat, distribution, taxonomy, scientific references) with additional conservation-related information (rarity, conservatism, habitat dependency) and innovative identification tools (graphic keys, diagnostic photos) made possible by digital technology. The goal is to empower biodiversity conservation by a greater diversity of people, including nonprofessionals wantimng to contribute through citizen or participatory science.
Alan has authored over 100 journal articles and book chapters, and is in high demand as a speaker on plant taxonomy, community classification and mapping, biogeography, and biodiversity conservation. He is active with the Flora of North America project and the United States National Vegetation Classification, serves as an advisor to the N.C. Natural Heritage Program and N.C. Plant Conservation Program, and is a co-founder of the Carolina Vegetation Survey. As a trustee and board member of public and private conservation granting agencies and foundations, he has helped direct and oversee $400,000,000 of land conservation grants in the Southeastern United States.
Join us in person at the Kroc Center or via Zoom using this link. The link will open at 6:30 and we will have some time to socialize before the presentation starts at 7PM.
Join us Saturday, November 4, 2023 for the SC Native Plant Society Annual Meeting at Columbia’s Saluda Shoals Park. Elections will be held, and updated bylaws will be presented for an approval vote.
More program information will be coming soon but read here about the 20-year project to catalog Saluda Shoals Park plant species, now a Special Collection on wildflower.org at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, UT-Austin.
The SCNPS is seeking officers for the next term (starting in 2024). South Carolina requires a minimum of 3 officers as part of the 501(c)(3) status to meet IRS requirements: President, Secretary, and Treasurer. Two or more offices may be held by the same person.
If you or anyone you know might be interested in serving, please contact current President Katie Ellis at [email protected] for more information.
The State President presides at all meetings of the organization and Board of Directors, and serves as the official spokesperson of the SCNPS. The President represents the organization, its missions, goals and objectives, and projects and programs to the general public. The President serves as an ex-officio member of all state committees and all regional chapters.
The State Vice-President assumes the duties of the President in the absence of the President or at the President’s direction, and assists the President in those functions necessary for the leadership and development of the organization. In the event the President is no longer able to serve, the Vice-President shall become the President for the remainder of the term.
The State Secretary shall maintain all official records of the organization as well as minutes of the Board of Directors’ meetings. Actions handled remotely via email discussion and voting must also be recorded. The Secretary or his/her designee shall distribute official minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors. The Secretary will assure that all minutes and other documents are placed into a permanent archive, the nature of which will be established by Board action.
The State Treasurer has the charge and custody of and responsibility for all funds of the organization, and for the administration of such funds. The Treasurer deposits all such monies in the name of the organization as designated by the Board of Directors and maintains accurate records of all receipts and disbursements. Upon approval of the annual budget, the Treasurer is authorized to incur obligations on accounts and expenses provided in the annual budget without further approval of the Board of Director. In addition, the State Treasurer prepares a report for each meeting of the Board of Directors and the Annual Meeting of the Membership. The Treasurer executes and maintains all official correspondence with local, state, and federal entities related to the corporate and tax status of the organization. The Treasurer may be required to furnish a surety bond as determined by the Board of Directors. Candidates for the State Treasurer position should have knowledge of basic accounting procedures, a working knowledge of QuickBooks, and experience with Stripe.
As a follow-on to our earlier post on the subject, our Grand Strand chapter reminds us that Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve, home to rare and endangered wildlife such as Venus flytraps, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and black bears, remains under threat.
Conway Medical Center is proposing to build a new hospital directly adjacent to the site, limiting the ability of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and SC Forestry Commission to carry out their prescribed burns, essential for the health of the Preserve’s ecosystem.
We encourage readers to visit Change.org and sign the petition there. As of this writing, the campaign is only 2,700 signatures short of its 25,000 goal. As the petition puts it, “fire, smoke, and hospitals do not mix!” Let’s make our voices heard!
There’s a lot to be said for investing in courses like the South Carolina Native Plant Certification and/or the Clemson Master Gardeners. I’ve taken both courses and volunteered for both organizations over the past several years, as well as reading dozens of books, attending numerous seminars, luncheons, and other related events. I’ve found the learning to be fun as well as educational. It’s provided me with a foundation from which to pursue my personal goals.
That said, the sheer number of plants I encounter at home, hiking, at botanical gardens, and in nurseries is staggering. Just identifying them all is a challenge, and when you also need to understand their characteristics… Well, it’s a lot.
But today’s technology in the form of plant ID apps provides powerful tools that can help expand our knowledge while we’re on the move.
In the garden and stumble on a new plant? To pull or not to pull, that is the question… Is the new interloper a volunteer of a desirable plant, just a weed — or worse, an invasive species?
Whip out your phone, snap a picture, and within seconds one of today’s new crowd-sourced apps will identify the plant for you. These apps have a high degree of accuracy, and provide a wealth of useful information to help you make the “right-plant-right-place” decision.
See a plant at the botanical garden or in the wild and wonder if it would work in your garden? Just snap and learn, then hit save so you can call up the plant when you get home.
Here are a two of the apps I use. I recommend you download them and try them out!
This crowd-sourced AI-powered database processes upwards of a million snaps a day and claims 98% accuracy for plant identification. Personally, I’ve found that maybe 5% of the time I feel the need to cross validate, but generally the accuracy is fantastic. I love this app! It’s super-easy: Just snap a pic and it quickly pulls up the plant and a plethora of information about it, including sun, water, and soil requirements; size, shape, and spacing; blooming season, harvest time, propagation methods, and pruning; invasive notices, problems, fertilizer requirements and other FAQs.
There’s a free version to try out, but I consider the premium version at $30 a year to be one of the best investments I make.
A cooperative effort by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society, this crowd-sourced image-recognition app is as straightforward as can be. Snap a photo of a plant, insect, animal or mushroom — or even just point your camera at it — and get its taxonomic classification (from kingdom to species), common name, seasonality, a count of how many times it’s been recorded on the app, and a short description, typically pulled in from Wikipedia. It’s my go-to app for tree identification.
Home Front/Native Plant Toolbox: I Love My Merlin Bird App!
By Bill Stringer
Books such as Doug Tallamy’sNature’s Best Hope and Bringing Nature Home have given the native plant movement a huge boost in popularity. In his books and on his website (homegrownnationalpark.org), Tallamy describes the interaction between native plant species, native insects, and songbirds. The 25-cent takeaway from Tallamy’s work is that planting native plants and protecting native plant communities attracts native butterflies, moths, and other insects; enhances native insect reproduction; increases insect larval biomass; and thus provides songbirds insect larvae to feed their nestlings. Ah, the cycle of life!
I have recently been giving presentations entitled “Native Plants, Bugs, and Birds” to Garden Clubs around the State, drawing attention to Tallamy’s work and to historical data that show the importance of the Southeastern states to maintaining populations of numerous songbirds, particularly migratory species.
Yet, like many of us, my list of commonly seen songbirds is limited to the cardinals, blue jays, bluebirds, mockingbirds, sparrows, and finches that gather around my bird feeders or pull earthworms out of my lawn.
Recently, I was introduced to the Merlin Bird ID app from the Cornell Ornithology Lab. The app has been around for a while, but over the years it has become a powerful tool for songbird identification. Using the microphone on your smart phone, Merlin compares recorded bird songs with a huge database of sonograms on file at the Cornell Ornithological Lab, and almost instantly IDs the bird singing in your backyard.
Out of curiosity, I started placing my cell phone on the back porch just after dawn with Merlin running. I am fortunate to live on the borderline between Liberty city and rural Pickens County. I have an open grass field, a small stream riparian zone, a shrubby area, and an oak-hickory-pine forest within 100 yards of my back porch, and regular readers already know about the two small tall-grass prairies in my yard. I expected Merlin might ID a few birds I didn’t know I had, but I’ve been shocked (very pleasantly!) to find as many as 20 to 25 songbirds species in a 20-minute period, many of which I am familiar only from photos on birding websites. It has been exciting to find that various tanagers, vireos, nuthatches, thrushes, warblers, grosbeaks, gnatcatchers, flycatchers, etc., are all singing within hearing range of my cell phone mic.
The Merlin app is one of a suite of apps/projects being worked on by the folks at Cornell. They also produce the eBird app (an online collaborative life list which allows scientists to track migration patterns and more), and sponsor the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and much, much more.
There are of course other apps out there that help to identify birds and other wildlife in your yard (and we’d love to hear about some of your favorites), but Merlin is free, fun, and easy to use. So, if you haven’t already, get your keyster in gear, download the Merlin app to your phone, and discover what songbirds are lurking in or near your yard!
While most of these articles are at least partially behind paywalls, we encourage you to access them if you can. But here, for those that can’t, is the main takeaway: Native plantings are gaining traction, both in residential and corporate landscapes. But not without pushback.
Per the NY Times: “Lawns continue to polarize Americans, with traditionalists prizing manicured emerald expanses and environmentalists seeing them as ecological deserts that suck up excessive amounts of water and pesticides. The locus of power in many of these disputes are community or homeowner associations.” (According to one source, HOAs represent a staggering 29% of Americans, or 74 million people nationwide!)
Our own Editor’s advice to help explain to your neighbors what the heck is going on with your native plantings?
Tell them this: “One gas-powered leaf blower used for an hour generates the same amount of emissions as a car driving 1,100 miles” (factoid from the NY Times)
Post signs around your property that help explain “Why.” (Visit the National Wildlife Federation’s website to get a free certificate you can laminate and post — or splurge and get this nifty metal sign; or, on Etsy, search “native habitat sign” and you’ll find a ton of options for sale at reasonable prices; or make your own!)
Play the Pied Piper: Get the kids in your neighborhood involved with your yard. For every child who becomes entranced by a plant, a bird, a bug, or any other wildlife critter, a parent will follow!
South Carolina’s Heritage Preserves, most open to the public for fishing, boating, hiking, etc.
For the Upstate Chapter’s June meeting, State Botanist Keith Bradley presented “Conservation of South Carolina’s Botanical Heritage: A special Flora and its Future,” a talk dedicated to a discussion of the importance of South Carolina’s 77 Heritage Preserves (H.P.), which protect a whopping 111,575 acres statewide.
Where once King Cotton threatened South Carolina’s native landscapes, now King Loblolly is outgrowing and overtaking our Longleaf Pines, which are home to a number of unique species. The Midlands and Lowcountry host other unique plants, such as the May White Azalea. And new plants, such as a sunflower found at the Cartwheel Bay H.P. and a mint found only at the Brasstown Creek H.P. and one other place in Georgia, are still being found.
“We are THE ONLY CUSTODIANS of several species,” Keith told us, “and if we know where the plants are, we can do something about it: We can buy properties, we can do controlled burns, we can implement restorations.”
“Master Gardener Mondays” is a continuing education series offered the first Monday of each month at 2:00 PM via Zoom. Each live session is approximately one hour in length and includes time for Q&A. All attendees receive a follow-up email with a link to the recording and additional resources.
The July 3rd session, “Plant This Not That,” will provide examples of native plant alternatives for some common invasive species in South Carolina. Registration links for this and every Master Gardener Monday session can be found on the Clemson University Calendar of Events by searching for “Master Gardener,” or by clicking HERE.