Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Panthertown Valley hike with Dan Pittillo

What could be better than a walk in Panthertown Valley (the Yosemite of the East) with Dan Pittillo who has been studying this beautiful and diverse area since the 1970's?!  Dan of course knows the locations of all the rare and endemic plants and he shared them with us - as well as the geologic and cultural history of the place.  It was a beautiful day with good company, magnificent views, an interesting and challenging trail through diverse habitats - and lots of wildflowers (and mosses and liverworts and shrubs and trees and...)  Perfect.
Jean Hunnicutt

The Yosemite of the East lives up to its name. Upon entering this beautiful area we were afforded a beautiful view with a preview of the the day ahead. In the distance were granite plutons, which we would ascend after traversing the valley below. Pitch pine (Pinus rigida) and Carolina hemlock (Tsuga caroliniana) flanked the rocky outcrops where we stood, with evidence of the latter dying back from the effects of hemlock wooly adelgid. 

Descending from the sunny ridge we saw basal rosettes of colic root (Aletris farinosa) growing in the sandy swales along the old road, where Dan talked more about the geology of the area. As the richer valley took us in we were greeted by showy orchid (Orchis spectabalis) and Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense). We hiked to schoolhouse falls to have lunch and admire pink azalea (Rhododendron vaseyi) in bloom. For dessert were were treated to a serving of Appalachian shoestring fern (Vittaria appalachiana) presented on a flashlight so that we could get a look at with our hand lenses. This species is tropical, and exists behind the waterfall solely in the gametphytic form! 

As we ascended Little Green mountain we learned about the hybridization and theories of speciation of Birch as we admired the sweet birch (Betula lenta). The steep climb was rewarded with expansive views as we emerged onto the open rock. The outcrop was decked out with sand myrtle (Kalmia buxifolia), twisted spikemoss (Selaginella tortipila), and a sprinkling of pale corydalis (Capnoides sempervirens).

Before coming back down the mountain Dan pointed out an opening in the canopy of white pine (Pinus strobus) where there was a wetland, so we set our sights there and began to climb back down. We saw Catawba rhododendron (R. catawbiense) blooming en masse across the rock and into the woods. A painted trillium (Trillium undulatum) along the trail stopped us in our tracks, and then we noticed pink lady slipper (Cypripedium acaule) and flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum) blooming a little further away.

The bog was an open, sunny place filled with sphagnum moss (Sphagnum spp.) and Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia). A large black chokeberry (Aronia melancarpa) was blooming there at the entrance where we stood up to our ankles in muck. We did not go very far, but had a nice lesson on the depth and age of the bog. Dan showed us with a large stick that it was at least 2 feet deep near the side, and that nine thousand year old hemlock trees were found in there by researchers. How amazing!
Carrie Radcliffe

 Thanks to David Fann for the following images.
Dan and geology discussion

Pink Lady's Slipper, Cypripedium acaule

Painted Trillium, Trillium undulatum

view from Salt Rock Gap


 Top of Little Green Mountain

Lunch at Schoolhouse Falls

Panorama of Little Green Mountain top

Showy Orchis, Orchis spectabalis

view of Little Green Mtn and Big Green Mtn

bog depth

Pink Lady's Slippers

Table Mountain Pine

Schoolhouse Falls

Top of Little Green Mountain

Karen Lawrence submitted these images:
Canada Mayflower, (Maianthemum canadense 
Corydalis, Capnoides sempervirens). 
Carrie and Sand Myrtle

Catawba Rhododendron, Rhododendron catawbiense

beautiful white sand along the river

Top of Little Green Mountain

more to learn

wet trail

Dan and Sweet Birch Tree

Sphagnum Moss

depth of the bog

Clear streams

White Pine Forest

Pink Lady's Slipper

salamander eggs

Schoolhouse Falls

Dan Pittillo added the following photos from his files:

Appalachian shoestring fern (Vittaria appalachiana) 
in  gametphytic form!  

White Pine on Little Green in 1970

White  Pine on Little Green in 1998

Carrie's photos from our hike:

Pale Corydalis (Capnoides sempervirens). 
Pink Lady's Slipper

Pink Lady's Slippers

Sand Myrtle, (Kalmia buxifolia),  
Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) 
 twisted spikemoss (Selaginella tortipila) 

Patricia Howell submitted some additional photos which help tell the story of our day:

Flame Azalea 

Showy Orchis


  1. For those of us who are not such brave adventurers, your write-ups and photos really bring your experiences to life. Thank you for taking the time to share.--Suzanne

  2. Thank you so much for the beautifully written review and lovely photos. Wish I could have enjoyed the adventure with you, but this was next best. Much appreciated