Top 10 South Carolina Native Vines

Passion Flower, Purple – Passiflora incarnata by Wikpedia

We have now added a compilation of the Top 10 South Carolina Native Vines,  to our reference guide of native plants.  These flowering vines native to South Carolina are recommended for use as climbers for fence or trellis, or a few as ground covers.

Did you know you can find all sorts of resources on the About the Plants section of our website?

 Time to Plan

Author: Doug Lockard

Roger Schllerstrom & Nia Payne at the UNN in July

Other than spot watering, August is a fairly quiet month for native gardeners and the perfect time to begin planning for Autumn plantings.  Autumn’s cooler temperatures and wetter weather are ideal for starting native trees, shrubs, and perennials as the milder climate prepares root systems for cooler temperatures gently, creating a hardier plant.  

Growing plants require one-inch of rain a week which is easily met by our Autumn monthly average 3 ½ to 4 ¼ inches of rainfall, and our 60’s and 70’s is great for plants and gardeners alike!  Experts agree that planting about a month before the first frost is generally the best time, and that means early October is the right time in the Upstate.  

Autumn also means fewer weeds and pests, and no need for fertilizer, just a little compost mixed into the soil and 2-4 inches of mulch for protection.  Another reason for planting in the fall is that some plants require cooler temperatures to stimulate growth, and because May in the Upstate is our driest month, plants established over the winter have better odds of survival. 

Things are looking great at the SCNPS Upstate Native Nursery thanks to our incredible Greenhouse Gang volunteers under the direction of Cathy McCurdy.  They’ve been working all season to prepare for the Fall Sale from October 1st thru the 22nd so start planning your purchases now!  

Special thanks to the 2022 Greenhouse Gang!


Carol Avalon Chris & Kathy Ball Pam Barbour Cathy Bergin
Kyle Broomhall Ava Chitty Ruth Collins Annette Deshotels
Mary Margaret Dragoun Lindsay Finnell Kim Goldfine Amy Henderson
Steve Holding Nancy Jocoy Susan Lochridge Doug Lockard
Lyn McCurdy Randi Oury Nia Payne Meg Pearson
Linda Peters Miller Putnam Marge Sciezka Susan Schillerstrom
Judy Seeley Kitty Putnam Kay Stafford Roger Schillerstrom

Gardening for active People – a series

Bill Stringer, Ph. D., Retired Clemson faculty

What is a garden?  

Merriam-Webster lists several definitions: A plot of ground where herbs, fruits, flowers, or vegetables are cultivated; or

A public recreation area or park usually ornamented with plants and trees, as in a botanical garden or home landscape; or,

Alternatively, an open-air eating or drinking place, as in a beer garden.  Sounds like a good venue for recovering from a grueling run or hike!

Implied in the first two definitions is a need for regular, perhaps hard maintenance work, ie. weeding, mulching, pest control, etc.  Also, an area of land must be altered from a habitat designed by Nature for naturally occurring plants and other wildlife, into a space for human utilization or enjoyment.  And this is not all bad.  After all, I love fresh vegetables as much as the next person, and a walk through a beautiful botanical garden can really help lighten the cares of the world.  And the very act of gardening can be therapeutic.  But our approach to gardening can be seriously problematic.

Evolution of Bill

I grew up on a farm, helped to grow corn, wheat, and pastures.  I minded the cattle, helped bale the hay, but my least favorite was managing large numbers of chickens that were destined to become chicken tenders.  I hurried away to university and graduate school in agriculture.  It was in graduate school that I was tricked by a fellow graduate student into buying a pair of Brooks waffle sole running shoes and running with him.  

I took my new sport of running (more properly jogging) with me to my first faculty position at Penn State, where I gradually morphed in road racing.  I quickly learned to accept life in the last third of the finishers.  I learned to ignore the pain and fatigue of 10K and 20K races.  It was on those longer (to me) races that I began to look for distraction in the vegetation and wildlife along the roads and trails.  As a plants guy, I learned quickly to identify my plant friends along the roadside.  My friends helped me to increase my knowledge of the songbirds I heard and saw along the way.  Life on the run became a lot more fun.

When I came to Clemson, I became interested in native grasses and wildflowers.  As I got deeper into the study of these natives, I noticed that they were common along rural roadsides.  Then I learned of the close positive relationships between native plant communities and songbirds.  Then I learned that Nature had given the southeastern USA an important assignment: to serve as a nursery for migratory songbird species.  The declining numbers and species of migratory songbirds indicate that we are failing to hold up our end of the deal.

What is going on here?

This decline has been attributed to rapid development of rural land into housing and industrial sites.  Fencerows and woodlands were turned into areas of parking lots, rooftops, and lawns.  The destructive impact of development is magnified by the fact that homesites and industrial sites are usually re-vegetated with non-native plants.  The songbirds returned home from Central and South America, did not recognize the place, and found that the new landscape was nearly useless to a pair of songbirds trying to raise the kids.  

Where we go wrong is assuming that a beautiful lawn is just as appealing and good for wildlife as it is for us humans.  It is not! 

What can we do to fix this?  Get busy converting portions of home landscapes, golf course roughs and industrial sites into gardens of native grasses, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.  When?  ASAP.  From the 80’s movie, “If we build it, they will come”.  And we will have a more interesting place to do our running, walking, and hiking.  Watch for more on how to accomplish this in succeeding articles.


Upstate Lecture July 19: Greg Lucas

July 19th, 6:30 pm: July Upstate Monthly MeetingWhat’s Up in the Jocassee Gorges?

July’s speaker will be Greg Lucas who has worked in conservation education and outreach with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources for 32 years.He will discuss the conservation status of Jocassee Gorges lands, wildlife and plant communities; the status of Sassafras Mountain Overlook; and give a prescribed fire update.
The meeting link will open at 6:30 for a time to socialize and chat.  The program will start at 7pm.  Below is the Zoom link:
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Meeting ID: 823 0457 9305
Passcode: 399783
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An Upstate Urban Meadow

Photos and story by Doug Lockard, June 28, 2022

Reedy River Urban Meadow at Unity Park, Greenville

Reedy River Urban Meadow at Unity Park, Greenville


The Reedy River running through Unity Park has a new lease on life, courtesy of the City of Greenville, and I ‘discovered’ recently that it includes a marvelous native ‘Urban meadow’.  The project has many players, but the renovation of the river basin was designed by the firm Biohabitats in conjunction with the architectural project manager MKSK.  I learned that Biohabitats is one of the premier ecological restoration companies in North America, who “inspire communities to rediscover a sense of place through preserving indigenous ecosystems, restoring biological diversity, and embracing ecological stewardship.”


Keith Bowers, President, Biohabitats, Mt Pleasant, SC

Keith Bowers, President, Biohabitats, Mt Pleasant, SC



Speaking with Keith Bowers, President of the Biohabitats regional office in Mount Pleasant, SC. , I learned some interesting information worth sharing with our Upstate Membership.



Building a New Habitat

The Reedy River flood plain lost some of its resiliency when it was channelized in the 20’s-30’s making it more prone to flooding.  Addressing that would involve engineering upstream which was outside the scope of the Unity Park project, so they focused on rebuilding a new habitat to adapt to the reality of the existing environmental conditions such as sunlight, tree shade, water temperature, and periodic flooding.  Also, consistent with the goals of the park, and to minimize disruption of existing infrastructure, the river basin was widened to include a ‘bench’ on the north bank to encourage greater interaction between the visitors and the natural elements.

On the South bank, the emphasis was on removing the invasive plants such as Kudzu and Japanese Knot Weed, while preserving exiting and planting new shade canopy along the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  The Kudzu is already making a come-back, and Keith assured that the Park has an ongoing ‘Invasive Species Management Plan’ to address this as invasives will continue to flow down the river.

On the North bank the emphasis was on visitors’ interaction.  The trees were removed and replaced with a low ‘bench’ where a wildflower meadow was installed.  Following the ‘Right Plant Right Place’ rule, the Habitat team selected species from our South Carolina native plant communities that would thrive in the conditions found there.  I was interested in the bare oak and maple tree trunks that look like silent sentries on the North bank and Keith explained they were actually installed there after the bench was built to provide wildlife habitat in the meadow, eventually sequestering carbon by composting there.

Monarda fistulosa – Wild Bergamot

Monarda fistulosa – Wild Bergamot

Keith is a member of the SC Native Plant Society and he’s lectured to the Low Country chapter before.   At the conclusion of our interview, he encouraged the Upstate members to monitor the progress at the Unity Park habitat over the years and send feedback to him at Biohabitats.

Natives on the Reedy Unity Park

Natives on the Reedy Unity Park

Restoring the Mill at Parks Mill

Bill Stringer, Parks Mill Preserve Chair

The Superstar of the Parks Mill Spiderlily Preserve is the rare and beautiful rocky shoals spiderlily.  It gets top billing for obvious reasons.

Figure 1. The Superstar!

Historic Mill Building

The old historic mill building deserves attention as well, especially as it is showing its age and needs help to survive into the future.  The Parks Mill Preserve Committee is working on giving it a much-needed face lift.  In 2020, we started working on a plan to restore the Mill building into sustainable condition.

We saw that some of the support beams underneath were showing some serious damage and sagging (see Figure 3).  We became concerned that further neglect would result in unrecoverable damage to the entire structure.  We concluded that a new roof was needed, but that would have to wait until the sagging support beams underneath could be replaced.  Fortunately, we have a few highly motivated retired folks with skills in construction who could take the lead in this work.   SCNPS members Tom Simpson and Bill Quinn have taken the lead in getting this project underway.

Preliminary removal of exterior wall boards uncovered the degree of damage, and the size and number of heavy support beams needed.  Tom’s extensive “I know a guy” list has  enabled us to find a sawmiller who is working with us to find some large sawlogs, and to saw them to the correct dimensions.  And the correct size is big and heavy.  Tom’s experience in working with heavy timbers led him to develop some ways to make moving large heavy timbers a lot easier. So, Tom Simpson and Bill Quinn with occasional help from Bill Stringer, have made significant progress by working a half-day a week on the project.

Note that Tom, Bill, and the author are steadily becoming senior citizens.  We have had to work hard, but even more important, smart.  Thanks to Tom, the smart part comes easy.

Below is a pair of before and after photos to show the scale of things we have accomplished.  We started with the support beams under the mill room floor.  We have purchased some heavy-duty jacks and are using jacking and a technique called cribbing to level and stabilize the floor and wall structure.  When that is done, we remove the old rotten beams, repair any failing stone-and-cement piers, and then we move the new replacement support beams into place.

Figure 3.  Failed original beams.  Note the millstones above.

Figure 4.  (From L to R) A heavy duty jack, cribbing, and new beams in place.

Mind you, this  work was accomplished by two to three men, all in their mid-seventies, and so illustrates how working smart can take you a long way.  Needless to say, we  place a huge priority on safety.  You have probably determined by now that this is an effort to recruit some more, and possibly younger, interested folks into this work, and you’d be right!  So, if you can spare an occasional half day to a day from time to time, and would be interested in helping out with this effort and learning from an expert in working hard and smart (Tom Simpson), forward your name and contact info to Bill Stringer at [email protected] .  We will be happy to fit you into the work schedule.  We can assure that you will have fun, because one cannot work this hard without it!  And the feeling of deep satisfaction that comes from looking over, at “quitting time”,  what has been accomplished is quite irreplaceable!


The Park Mill Team

The Upstate Native Nursery: A Confluence of Missions

Photo curtesy of WorldAtlas.comThe term ‘confluence’ means “a coming or flowing together or gathering at one pointand is an excellent metaphor for the discussions underway between the SCNPS Upstate chapter and the Conestee Foundation over a potential new home for the Upstate Native Nursery.  Since 2003 the SCNPS has grown and sold plants annually and since 2011 from a greenhouse and nursery built by Miller & Kitty Putnam.  We’re looking now to build on that incredible legacy and prepare a pathway to meet the future needs of our Upstate community.

The site that’s under consideration is a parcel within the boundary of one of Greenville’s signature public greenspaces at Conestee Nature Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary. This site also connects with three other important Upstate organizations as the proposed falls within a larger conservation easement of Upstate Forever, is bordered on one side by the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and it falls within the City of Greenville and embraces their Sustainable Greenville mission to ‘protect our natural resources, improve the health of the region’s watersheds and reduce the City’s carbon footprint.’  Each these organizations, in their own way, share a common interest in promoting a meaningful connection of discovery, and learning about nature in the Upstate.

We’re busy now developing our plans and designs for the new nursery, which we hope will also incorporate other features including a native plant interpretative garden, a learning library, a native seed bank, and a learning center for native plant propagation and husbandry.  We’re engaging with both the public and private elements necessary to advance the project, and we’ll keep you posted on progress.

Once the project is approved by both CNP and SCNPS Boards, and permitting obtained, we’ll be assembling a team of corporate funding sponsors, contractors and volunteers to help with the construction and start-up.

Stay tuned and for more information contact [email protected]

Native Plants and Biodiversity

“The great challenge of the twenty-first century is to raise people everywhere to a decent standard of living while preserving as much of the rest of life as possible.”
― Edward O. Wilson

For most of us the debate about the reality of climate change and the threat to biodiversity seems to be largely behind us, and we can now focus our energies on what we can do about it.  May 22nd is the International Day for Global Diversity . We thought this would be a good time to reflect on our contribution—past, present and future.

Doug Lockard muses on the relationship between native plants and the role they play in addressing the larger challenges of biodiversity for this edition.  “My interest in conservation began with the sustainability movement during my later years in the construction industry.  Through my more recent engagement with the South Carolina Native Plant Society, that interest has morphed into a rewarding adventure of discovery into the world of ecosystems and the importance of biodiversity.”

In this essay, we’ll explore the foundational role of native plants in the balance of all life, some of the primary challenges to our native species, and how rewilding our individual properties right here in South Carolina will enable us contribute nature-based solutions to climate, health issues, food and water security, and sustainable livelihoods.

Read the Essay

Upstate Monthly Meeting – Wild Herbs of South Carolina

Our May 17th presentation will be, “Wild Herbs of South Carolina”, by April Punsalan. April is the Yahola Herbal School Founder. She is also a Botanist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Charleston, S.C. More details will be coming soon.

Pickens Native Plant Garden Open House

Pickens County Native Plant Garden Hosts Scavenger Hunt

On Saturday, May 7, 2022, volunteers at the Joe and Maggie Rampey Interpretive Gardens, located at the Pickens County Museum of Art and History in Pickens, SC, will host an open house and children’s scavenger hunt from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.  The garden open house and scavenger hunt are part of the Pickens Azalea Festival.

Children will be challenged to complete a scavenger hunt to locate specific plants native to the Upstate. The selected plants are expected to be in bloom in early May. Garden volunteers will also be available to answer questions and lead tours. In addition to the scavenger hunt, the Pickens County 4-H and Clemson Cooperative Extension will sponsor a hands-on children’s activity.

Unique Garden Showcases Native Plants

Judy Seeley Pickens Museum Native Plant Garden volunteer. 10-2022 Swamp Sunflower in background.

Volunteers are ready to greet visitors on Saturday, May 7.

This unique garden, open since 2009, showcases a great variety of plants that are native to the Upstate. Volunteers from the Upstate Chapter of the SC Native Plant Society, the Master Gardeners of the Foothills, and the Upstate Master Naturalists Association maintain the garden.

According to Carol Asalon, volunteer coordinator, “The purpose of the event is to increase awareness of the garden and to educate visitors of all ages about not only the beauty of native plants but also the crucial role they play in maintaining a diverse and healthy ecosystem.”

Location and more information.

The Pickens County Museum of Art and History is located at 307 Johnson St., Pickens, SC, 29671. For more information contact Carol Asalon at [email protected]