Return to Oconee Station State Historic Site for more wildflowers — 2013-04-15

When I left Whitewater Falls, I made a return visit to Oconee Station State Historic Site. This site was orignially established in the late 1700s as a blockhouse for soldiers on the frontier. It also served as a trading post for local residents and Native Americans.

The attraction for me on this day was Trillium simile, Gleeson’s Trillium also called Sweet White Trillium:

Trillium simile

and Trillium Catesbaei, Catesby’s Trillium:

Trillium catesbaei

Trilliums grow from a rhizome, which forms a couple of inches below the soil. More than one flowering stem may sprout from a rhizome, so sometimes a cluster of several blooming stems may be seen. These two Trillium species, however, do not tend to form flowering clumps.

There is much discussion about the differenced beteen Trillium simile and Trillium erectum, which does not grow at this particular site. Both species, along with Trillium vaseyi, are members of the Trillium erectum alliance. There is also some thought that Trillium simile might be the result of some ancient cross between species of the alliance. The differences between the two species are quite subtle — in any case, I have it on good authority that the species found at Oconee Station is Trillium simile. Enough said about that…

Here are some additional images of Trillium simile, representing the hundreds of plants that were in full bloom:

Trillium simile

The other Trillium species that was in full bloom is Trillium catesbaei or Catesby’s Trillium. Unlike Trillium simile, the flowers of Catesby’s Trillium hang down, fully below the leaves of the plant. I almost all cases, the flower petals are a lovely shell pink. To photograph the flower head-on, the camera has to positioned near ground level and the plant tilted backwards a bit. Here are a few images of the plants I saw beside the trail:

The flower, above on the right, has just opened and the petals have not begun to curve backward into their full-flowered position.

Two other species that were in evidence are Hepatica acutiloba known as Sharpleaved Hepatica or Liverwort (below left), and Arisaema triphylla also known as Jack-in-the-pulpit (below right). The Hepatica plants were not currently in flower, having bloomed a few weeks prior:

Scattered all through the woods beside the trail, were many instances of Tiarella cordifolia or Heartleaved Foamflower:

and beautiful pinkish-purple flowers of Geranium maculatum or Wild Geranium:

About five years ago, the trail was re-routed to where it currently exists. I had remembered a spot along the old trail where there was a nice patch of Iris cristata or Dwarf crested Iris. Since it was about the season for them to be in bloom, I was curious about that patch having flowers. So, I left the trail and walked through the woods to the location of the Irises. Wow! They were in full bloom and quite spectacular, as well:

Iris verna

Then, a curious red and yellow flower caught my eye. It is the fairly common Pedicularis canadensis or Canadian Lousewort. The red form, however, is not very common:

Canadian Lousewort

It is called “Lousewort”, because of an old belief that these plants, when ingested, were responsible for lice infestations in livestock. It is known to be a root parasite, and is a member of the broomrape family of plants. Here is a mixed color plant (below left) and the pure yellow colored plant (below right):

Finally, there were dozens of Uvularia perfoliata or Perfoliate Bellwort at the edge of the woods. The common name of “Perfoliate”, describes the stem which appears to perforate or pass through the leaf:

Perfoliate bellwort

This brings to close another busy day botanizing in the upstate of South Carolina. We have quite a diverse selection of spring wildflowers in our state. Many more will come into bloom in the next month or so, and I hope to be out in the field recording their beauty…

— Jim

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  1. Great content and wonderful images, Jim. Unusual color on the first lousewort. Just a masterful job on the Uvularia.

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