Oconee Bells: Lost and Found Treasure of the Upstate

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The Upstate Native Plant Society meeting on Tuesday, April 16 at 7pm, explores the story of the Oconee Bells, a rare and beautiful Spring blooming wildflower found in only a few places in the world.  One of those places is the Jocassee Gorges in Upstate South Carolina.  Naturalist Kay Wade will present the story of the discovery, “loss” and rediscovery of this tiny beauty which draws hundreds of people to the upstate every March when the Bells are in bloom.

Wade will focus on the human interest stories that are a fascinating part of the history of the Oconee Bells, (Shortia galacifolia).  In the 1700’s botanist Andrea Michaux discovered the plants in South Carolina and sent pressed botanical samples to Paris, France.  The samples lingered in obscurity in a museum collection until botanist Asa Gray saw them in 1839.  Gray searched in vain for the Bells until 1884.  Years later the plant was found, by accident, by teenager George Hyams who wondered what this unusual plant was and took some home.  Kay Wade will fill in the details of the search and the characters involved.

Kay Wade is a Master Naturalist and co-owner of Jocassee Lake Tours.  She writes columns for the Seneca Journal.

The program is on Tuesday, April 16 at 7pm at Landrum Depot, 211 North Trade Street, Landrum, SC, in Spartanburg County.  The program is free and open to the public.  Please arrive at 6:30 for socializing and refreshments.