Friday, August 30, 2013

A Program on Mountain Bogs in North Georgia with Carrie Radcliffe

Safeguarding Mountain Bogs is a unique and challenging undertaking; one we understand much better now that we have encountered the information imparted by Carrie Radcliffe in her educational and fascinating presentation on the subject and our tour of a mountain bog restoration site.  

The Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance was created in 1995 and is headquartered at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.  It's a collaborative program of entities including the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Chattahoochee Nature Center,  Georgia Department of Natural Resources, The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, USDA Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and several others.  This organization is the only one of its kind in the nation and recently several states have begun similar programs using it as their model. 

 Safeguarding mountain bogs is their signature project which focuses on the cultivation of plant materials from the known wild populations, outplanting, habitat restoration and field recovery.   

According to Carrie, "Mountain bogs in the Southern Blue Ridge are more appropriately described as Southern Appalachian fens. Fens tend to occur in flat valleys and be less confined by the underlying geology and higher in nutrients than Northern bogs. Some mountain bogs do occur at high elevations, in bowl-like topographical features atop mountains. There are many classifications of these wetlands, and although they are one of the rarest habitats in the Southeast, no two are alike. What we prefer to call mountain bogs consist of seeping groundwater and surface drainage that, combined with one or more forms of natural disturbance (fire, grazing/clearing) remain open and sunny. Many are remnants of past beaver activity, and before this mammal was largely removed from our landscape there was a prevalence of these habitats in a perpetual state of creation and dilapidation and thus more habitat available for bog endemics. Sphagnum moss is the key site indicator and forms a shallow, nutrient-deprived top-layer that is more acidic than the deeper areas.

At the bog restoration and safeguarding site we visited, suitable bog habitat had been identified and selected for reclamation, management, and experimental reintroduction of imperiled plant species. Rare plants that have been outplanted at this site under the scientific advisory of the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance include Cuthbert's turtlehead (Chelone cuthbertii), the Federally Threatened swamp pink (Helonias bullata), and the purple mountain pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea var. montana). Other rare species (included in Carrie's lecture) are being propagated at GPCA member gardens and will be added to this site, which is unique in that it serves as a demonstration area and a repository of genetic material for species that are otherwise restricted to one wild population. 

Cuthbert's turtlehead (Chelone cuthbertii
Photo By Karen Lawrence.

Photo by Karen Lawrence
purple mountain pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea var. montana
Photo By Karen Lawrence.

Wetland species were prevalent, including the uncommon possumhaw viburnum (Viburnum nudum), naked fruit rush (Juncus gymnocarpus) and common rush (Juncus effusus), threeway sedge (Dulichium arundinaceum), wool grass (Scirpus cyperinus), and stiff cowbane (Oxypolis rigidior). Herbaceous plants that were among the bog but not restricted to wetlands included green wood orchid (Platanthera clavellata), largeflower heartleaf (Hexastylis shuttleworthii), netted chain fern (Woodwardia areolata), hayscented fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), cinnamon fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula), boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), southern lobelia (Lobelia amoena), galax (Galax urceolata), and the invasive exotic annual Japanese stilt grass/ Nepal grass (Microstegium vimineum). Common woody plants in wet areas included blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), pepperbush (Clethra acuminata), and maleberry (Lyonia ligustrina L.). Bear huckleberry (Gaylussacia ursina), serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), Fraser's magnolia (Magnolia fraseri), sourwood (Oxydendron arboreum), pitch pine (Pinus rigida), and black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) grow in higher, drier spots around the ecotones (transitional habitat). Woody species that invaded the bog and are being removed or taken back to the early successional stage in the surrounding uplands through the restoration process include red maple (Acer rubrum), white pine (Pinus strobus), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), and rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum)." 

The other rare plants not mentioned earlier which are found in mountain bogs are listed here: 

According to Dan Pittillo, we saw  Juncus gymnocarpus & effusus, Hexastylis cf. shuttleworthii, Galax urceolata, Viburnum nudum (lots), Eupatorium perfoliatum, Scirpus cf. cyperinus, Microstegium vimineum (aka Japanese stilt-grass) and of course lots of Sphagnum.
Woodwardia areolata pinnae       Photo by Dan Pittillo

Lobelia amoena fls by Dan Pittillo

Oxypolis rigidior planr  by Dan Pittillo
Oxypolis rigidior infl 
Photo by Dan Pittillo

Dan Pittillo remarks "The inflorescence of Oxypolis shows the umbellate nature of the flowers and the seedlings of Sarracenia are encouraged getting a start in the Sphagnum moss."
Platanthera clavellata infl  by Dan Pittillo

Sarracenia purpurea v
Photo by Dan Pittillo

Don Fisher, Dan Pittillo, Carrie Radcliffe

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Terrestrial Orchids with Don Fisher

The rain did nothing to dampen our enthusiasm for viewing the splendid display of orchids and other blooming wildflowers as Don Fisher led us around the grounds of Coweeta Hydrologic Lab.  Don did an amazing job of scouting out these illusive orchids and conducting us through the areas where we could see the treasures.

The Orchids we were hoping to see included Three Bird (Triphora trianthophora), Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens), Green Wood Orchid (Platanthera clavellata),  Leaves of pink ladies slipper (Cypripedium acaule), Crane fly (Tipularia discolor), Slender ladies tresses (Spiranthes gracilis), and Yellow Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris (L.) Lindl.).

We were treated to the sight of the very rare Three Bird Orchid (Triphora trianthophora) or Nodding Pagonia right at the start!  This was such a treat because it is so small and inconspicuous that it's extremely easy to miss so it takes someone with an expert eye, like Don, to even notice them.  It only blooms for one day so you most often see either the bud unopened or the spent bloom.  It's usually no taller than 8 inches in height and likes acid soil, particularly hemlock forest.  It gets it's name from the fact that when it's in bloom, it looks like three tiny birds have their mouths open for food or it resembles three birds in flight--I've heard it described both ways.  I'm guessing a birder was involved with the naming of this orchid?  There's a great article here HERE and another one HERE if you want to read more about it.

Three Bird Orchid by Karen Lawrence

Three Bird Orchid Photo by Karen Lawrence

From there we were fortunate to view examples of all of the orchids on our list!  The moist woods was the habitat for the Rattlesnake plantain, the Green wood,  Crane Fly and the leaves of the pink ladies slipper.

Downy Rattlesnake Plaintain; Goodyera pubescens
The triangular spike of flowers is tightly pack on top third of stem.  Flowers are small and rounded.  This orchid is the most prolific we have in the southern mountains and can be found in virtually every habitat.  There is a network of markings on each leaf which resembles the network of scales on the head of the rattlesnake.  
Green Woodland Orchid;  Plantanthera clavellata Also called Club Spur Orchid
Club spur refers to the swollen or enlarged tip of the spur of each flower.  The slender backward extension of the lip is often referred to as the nectary.  The flowers are small and rounded and often oriented in different directions.  This orchid is often inconspicuous because of green color and slender appearance which blends with background.  It can reach up to about 10" in height.  It usually displays only one narrow leaf partway up stem.  It can be found in wet areas of open fields or woods.  It blooms about the same time at the Diana fritillary butterfly begins to be seen on thistles.  

Cranefly; Tipularia discolor-
So named because individual flower somewhat resembles the cranefly.  Individual flowers have a long slender spur.  A solitary leaf which appears in the winter is dark green on top and bright purple or beet red on bottom.  The leaf is not present during flowering.  They bloom in summer in dark woods and often go undetected.  There are three species of this genus in the world, yet only one occurs in North America.  It often has a preference for woods with beech trees.

The nearby roadway was the site of the slender ladies tresses and a magnificent grouping of the yellow fringed orchid which happens to be my most favorite!  it is truly an awesome display and visible from your car!  I took a friend out there Saturday and we were able to view them easily from the car without disturbing a single blade of grass.

Slender Ladies Tresses; Spiranthes lacera photo by KL
Plant has a green lip marginally edged with white.  The scientific name refers to the small lacerations on edge of lip and to the spiraling pattern of flowers as they ascend the stem.  This pattern is reminiscent of braided hair. Basal leaves may be absent at flowers.  This is the second largest genus of orchids in our mountains, second to the fringed orchids-Plantanthera.
Yellow Fringed Orchid; Plantanthera ciliaris by Karen Lawrence
Some refer to this as orange fringed orchid due to its appearance.  It is fairly common in our southern mountains in early to mid August but is susceptible to even small habitat changes.  Look for it in open sunlight in somewhat damp conditions or even dry sand.  Most healthy plants reach heights up to 15".  Most flowers open from the bottom up.  
In addition to the orchids, we also saw the following:
Everlasting pea which was grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello back in 1807, Sumac, Virgin's Bower, Boneset, Fleabane, Sundrops, Coreopsis, Brown Nut, Colic Root, Rose Pinks and meadow beauties.

button rosy

Colic Root
Hairy Woodland Sunflower.  Can anyone identify the butterfly?  

Looking at Three Bird Orchid

It was very tiny




Compiled by Kathy Stilwell