Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Champion Trees with Jeff Zahner by Karen Lawrence, Julie Ross and Kathy Stilwell

Jean Hunnicutt out did her own splendid program coordinating talents with this event! She arranged for Jeff Zahner of Chattooga Gardens to take us on a tour of the Highlands and Cashiers area champion trees and he put together a program that will not be forgotten. She also arranged for an absolutely glorious fall day.

 We started out at the Highlands Biological Station where we visited the largest tree in the garden which was a Tulip Poplar. We then walked along the W. C. Coker Rhododendron Trail to see the Hemlock cove with actual living hemlocks - something that has become sadly rare with the infestation of the adelgid. We were also treated to the sight of three Monarch butterflies (or the same one visiting us three different times).

 From there we went to Peggy Crosby Center where we saw a European Silver Fir along with several other giant conifers including Oriental spruce, Nordmann fir and California incense cedar, all planted by forester Tom Harbison 80+ years ago. We were introduced to Dr. Gary Wein, Botanist and Executive Director and Herpetologist, and Kyle Pursel, Stewardship Coordinator; both with Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust who provided the distinct privilege of viewing the Cheoah Hemlock which is the largest surviving hemlock in the world., ( protected by Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust). This was a breathtaking experience. We are grateful not only to Gary and Kyle and Jeff for their passionate enthusiasm and dedication as well as their expert tutelage but to all those who have worked to conserve these untouched habitats preserving them for future generations.

 At this point, I did not think the day could be topped but I was wrong. The Historic High Hampton Inn provided us with a virtual smorgasboard of giant trees including six state champion trees, one potential national champion and what many claim is the largest baldcypress, standing over 140 feet. The 1400 acre property is partly under two conservation easements with the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust and is full of large maples, poplars, hickories and magnolia trees. The Champion trees include a Kentucky coffee tree, an umbrella magnolia--the contender for the fall 2012 National Register of Big Trees--a bottlebrush buckeye, a Nordmann fir, mistakenly signed as a Fraser fir, an alternate-leaf dogwood, and a black locust.  Kathy Stilwell

Julie Ross provided this excellent review of the trip:

"Flowers are beautiful -- but trees are majestic. Perhaps that is why Joyce Kilmer wrote "I think that I shall never see, A poem lovely as a tree." The many trees we saw in Highlands and Cashiers were unforgettable -- certainly lovely as any poem. SAPS was ready to roll on Thursday, October 2, 2014. Our guide Jeff Zahner, was knowledgeable and accommodating. We met Jeff at the Highlands Botanical Station and took a brief tour where Jeff pointed out several big trees, but they were nothing like the giants we were soon to see. Jeff also told us stories about the station's history and its hopes for acquisition of neighboring property.

 Seeing the European Silver Fir at the Peggy Crosby Centert was like seeing an oasis in the desert -- it was calm and beautiful and right in the center of a bustling town. Gary and Kyle joined us and now we have three experienced guides for the most daunting part of our journey.

 After a somewhat leisurely picnic lunch at a lovely church, we were ready to start our hunt for the biggest hemlock in the eastern United States. The tree even has a name -- it's called the Cheoah Hemlock. Perhaps the first clue that this was not going be easy was Kyle's need to take a machete. (The tree is on private land and visitors are not really welcome, so there has been no attempt to make an easy access or even a path.) The hike to the giant tree is straight down. After I stepped on some acorns and went flying, I decided not to go further. I need to remember my walking stick next time. So I can't describe Cheoah, but this article can.

Next, we visited the "tree museum" at High Hampton Inn in Cashiers. The hotel has at least a dozen specimens of giant trees and enough space to view them as noted above. We had fun guessing the ages of the trees, but they were probably planted in 1900s by the former land owners. While many trees are reputed to be title-holders, Jeff had his doubts.  Read more here.

Unfortunately, we ran out of time before we could visit the poplars, but we did spend some time at Jeff's wonderful nursery. He showed us his many horticultural projects and encouraged everyone to get involved with nature. Of course, SAPS people are already doing that, but we can certainly spread the word.

 Karen Lawrence's Photos from the event:
Virgin forest, mosses
Oldest living Eastern Hemlock
Kathy and Hemlock
Red Trumpet Flower blooming at Highlands Biological Station
Tulip Poplar
SAPS with Jeff Zahner heading up Rhododendron Trail
Large Hemlock at HBS
Netted Chain Fern
View across lake at High Hampton Inn and Resort
Under Umbrella Magnolia view
Copper Beech Tree at High Hampton
Bald Cypress Tree at HH
Weeping Beech Tree
State record Black Locust Tree
Ginko Tree
Coffee Tree


Monday, September 29, 2014

4th Anniversary Celebration

I always say this, but our anniversary tour/celebration was another lovely SAPS event. The tour, led by Elaine Delcuze and Glen Henderson, of the woodland trail and the ethnobotanic gardens was impressive especially for the progress made since our last visit in 2010. The sites are beautiful and the number and variety of native plants is a wonderful preservation effort. The wine and cheese reception, beautifully prepared by SuSu Davis (of course), gave us the time to reminisce about the past 4 years. I want again to say my thanks to everyone that's made us possible: Elaine Delcuze, whose ICL wildflower class brought us together and sparked our interest. SuSu Davis, who surprised us with wine and cheese at that last class and gave us the opportunity to socialize and realize we wanted to continue. Members of that class who were so enthusiastic about continuing. Bob Gilbert, who had developed a list of ideas for programs by the time we got home that night - and has continued to be our inspiration. And to Bob and SuSu for developing email lists and keeping us informed and enthusiastic with regular mailings. Since that day we've grown from 10 in the class to more than 120 on our current mailing list. Our first program and organizing meeting was at GMREC in December 2010. We decided then we didn't want a formally structured organization. We simply wanted to be become "more informed about the plants in the forests and gardens of the Southern Appalachians." We brainstormed about a name and SuSu clinched it with the SAPS acronym. We may not be very structured, but our programs are of top quality and our mailings and blog site look "professional." Thanks for that to: Dan Rawlins for establishing the blog site that first year. Kathy Stilwell for developing the current blog site, for the professional-looking flyers, and the wonderful write-ups about each program on the blog. And for maintaining the email addresses and sending all mailings. Karen Lawrence whose amazing photographs of plants and flowers (and anything else of interest on our trips) help us remember and maybe even see more than we realized was there. David Fann whose candid people photographs capture the fun and enthusiasm of each trip. And to everyone who shares comments and photographs about each program. It's been a wonderful 4 years and I can hardly wait for the next 4! From Jean Hunnicutt

Jean Hunnicutt, with her usual modesty, has left her name off the list of people who have built SAPS. But without Jean, SAPS would be a far-different organization. Jean holds things together -- she works on programs, she communicates with members, and she makes sure newcomers feel welcome. She does all this (and more) with grace and style. Jean, we love you and all you do!
Julie Ross

 Karen's photos

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Meadow Making with Randy Burroughs

After Randy's program last week I have the courage to start on my meadow - finally. His lecture was full of practical advice and inspiration, and I loved his passion for protecting and fostering our native environment. The day was beautiful and our Greenway was the perfect laboratory for our walk. I have a new appreciation for such common natives as Broomsedge, Partridge Pea, Purple Top Grass, Wooly Witch Grass - even Rabbit Tobacco. Thanks to Randy for that - and for the beautiful, healthy plants he brought to share. Watch next summer for the Cardinal Flowers blooming along the Greenway. And here's the book he mentioned but didn't remember title:
 Jean Hunnicutt

I, too, was motivated to begin a meadow.  And, as a result of Randy's find presentation, I began noticing some quite exceptional meadows right in my own neighborhood.  Randy's passionate comments on how a meadow creates a habitat for all kinds of creatures native to our environment was especially inspiring.  
Kathy Stilwell

Here is the link to Karen Lawrence's photos from the day.

And here are some random shots from the session: 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bryophytes with Ed Schwarzmann -- A glimpse into the world of moss

Thanks to Ed Schwartzman for another wonderful day of botany in the woods! This time he gave us a new appreciation for Bryophytes - in the beautiful Glen Falls area. With enthusiasm and amazing knowledge, he helped us better understand the complexity of mosses and liverworts and to see their intricate beauty. I'm already looking forward to knowing where he will lead us next year. Jean Hunnicutt

 Wow we were certainly enlightened with bryophytes. Ed has so much enthusiasm for his subject and to think that is not his primary subject! Wish we had more Herons with us to absorb Ed's knowledge. He would inspire our future botanists. Instead, he just made us appreciate life more. Joyce Hall

 A relatively chilly mountain summer morning greeted those of us participating in the “Bryophyte Foray to Glen Falls”. Many of us had only a token idea of the extent of the vegetative world to which we would be introduced as the day progressed: the world of Bryophytes, the oldest of all lineages of land plants. Minute plants without vascular systems that are recognized as mosses, liverworts, and hornworts! Our essential ambassador on this journey into another world of plant life was Ed Schwartzman, a botanist with the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, whose knowledge of local plant life is matched only by his own genuine enthusiasm and warm personality. Ed led a brief discussion of why the Glen Falls area is a good example of a Bryophytes “hot spot”. This area, as well as other areas in the Blue Ridge Escarpment, are considered temperate rain forest and have geologically formed recessed pockets or grottos that maintain the right amount of constant humidity and temperature ideal for the existence of Bryophytes. Couple this with the lack of glaciation and it can be understood why there is such a tremendous amount of Bryophyte diversity dating back millions of years. There are two distinct forms of liverworts, leafy and thalloid. Leafy liverworts can look very much like mosses. However, the leaf arrangement distinguishes liverworts from mosses; leafy liverwort leaflets are arranged in two or three rows while the leaflets in mosses are spirally arranged. Thalloid liverworts do not look like mosses, in that there are no stems or leaves and the body is flat. Ed explained that there are also two distinct, general forms of mosses. Acrocarpous mosses are usually unbranched and erect. Pleurocarpous mosses tend to form low-lying branching carpets, rather than the erect tufts that are typical of the Acrocarps. After a discussion of the life cycle of mosses, and clutching our hand-held magnifying lenses (with any head-gear appropriately positioned in the backwards mode whenever possible), we headed off to the edge of the parking lot to begin to take a closer look into the Bryophyte world. It was amazing to see the various details of mosses– e.g., little individual vertical stems with leaves or horizontal branching, tangled and creeping, forming carpets on wood (dead and alive), rocks, and ground. And to see, liverworts with their complicated leafy structures, frequently growing alongside their mossy bryophyte brethren.. Someone said that it would be possible to spend the whole day looking at one Bryophyte covered fallen tree trunk, exploring the many different Bryophyte species, along with the equally diminutive invertebrate wildlife that calls these forests of minute, simple plants home. Upon reaching the Glen Falls, many of us got our feet wet climbing around boulders and looking into crevices to see the many different species that Ed pointed out (or just wading in the water!). At one point, deep into a rock crevice, a flashlight was needed to be able to see small plant details, in addition to a magnifying lens,. So, so small and so, so unique. It is hard to communicate the excitement one can feel experiencing some of the details of life that can only be appreciated with modest magnification. With nose pressed close to the green, there is a real element of surprise when your hand lens happens to come across the intricate details of a mosquito resting on a minute Bryophyte leaflet. Or when viewing, seemingly, the large distinct red cell of the liverwort, Frullania asagrayana, only to discover a red bug that slowly ambles away – you know then you are observing a different world! Approximately 10 of the 30 moss species listed in a welcome handout of local bryophytes were identified, while about 3 liverwort species of the 9 listed were identified. No hornworts identified on this outing. Glen Falls is a lovely place with at least two water falls (upper and lower). It is a moderate hike down to the bottom of the second cascade but the return trip is all uphill; we weren’t chilly on the walk back! Glen Falls is a good place to consider returning to in search of Bryophytes and other, frequently unique, denizens of the Blue Ridge Escarpment. A significant challenge to some of us remains how to continue to further explore this elfin world of Bryophytes as part of our routine daily activities that typically occur on a different size scale and altitude above the ground. Binoculars are an essential tool for observing distant birds; having a hand lens at the ready at all times is the logical first step for observing Bryophytes . And to remember how much can be experienced by stooping over to the level of ancient plant species that are rarely more than an inch tall. The mission of the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program ( is to “provide a scientific basis for effective conservation by compiling information on rare species and natural communities and distributing the information to the public and other agencies for planning and protection efforts.” The citizens of North Carolina can be both proud and grateful to have Ed Schwartzman as part of this important program. Thank you, Ed! Brent Martin, Director of the Wilderness Society’s Southern Appalachian Region, helped to organize the outing with Ed and the rest of us. Thank you, Brent, for making the day possible! Helen Regnery

Here's a link to a recent story about moss.

Here's a link to David Fann's photos of the day

And here are Karen's photos with Ed's comments:

Anomodon triste - note broken leaf tips
Atrichum sp.
Diplophyllum apiculatum

Fern Moss (Thuidium delicatum)

Not sure about this one but could be Frullania - I think the lighter green tips are perianths from which the female reproductive structure emerge
Mnium sp

Peat Moss - Sphagnum sp.

Pellia sp.

Plagiochila sp. - likely asplenoides or sharpii - Tropical genus
Not sure about this one but I pointed it out because it has plantlets visible

Pocket Moss (Fissidens sp.) - a little dried out 
Scapania sp. 

Well hydrated Fissidens