Sunday, April 28, 2013

Heggie's Rock - Natural Pools of Wonder

Several months ago I wrote about some of the plants found at a small rock outcrop area. Earlier this month I had a chance to visit a very large granite outcrop in Georgia and explore some of the special plants there - in the company of a knowledgeable trip leader and fellow members of the Georgia Botanical Society.

Heggie’s Rock is a 130 acre outcrop in Columbia County, about 20 miles from Augusta, GA. The Nature Conservancy has created a Preserve that encompasses about 101 acres of that outcrop. Heggie’s Rock was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1980, one of only 10 such designations in Georgia.

The foreground shows the red leaves of Diamorpha smallii;
what a beautiful and totally natural scene.

According to the TNC website:  “The preserve is near Little Kiokee Creek which joins the Savannah River about eight miles downstream from the preserve. While the preserve includes a perimeter forest of oaks, pines and hickories, it is the granite outcrop, Heggie’s Rock, which dominates. It is here you see exposed granite, lichen and moss covered rock, soil islands and the beautiful vernal pools, or dish gardens, which support rare and unusual plants, and capture the imagination.”

With so many flowers and leaves in the picture it was hard to
get good focus, but here you can see the tiny white flowers
that top those bright red leaves (Diamorpha smallii).

Heggie’s Rock is named for Archibald Heggie, a Scot who acquired the property around 1808 through his wife, Martha Ramsey, whose grandfather built a grist mill on nearby Little Kiokee Creek. In 1983 The Nature Conservancy purchased it from Robert Pollard, a lumber company executive who had bought the land in 1981 to protect it from quarrying. It had been owned by two quarry companies since the 1950’s but thankfully never quarried.

As I said in my earlier post, special environments like these contain populations of very special plants, some of which don't grow in any other environment. It was early in the year when I wrote that other post, so now I can share some pictures of those same plants in
Tradescantia hirsuticaulis

This is hairy spiderwort (Tradescantia hirsuticaulis), a much better behaved relative of the usual garden thug, the smooth spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis). But then maybe growing on a rock would be limiting factor!

Diamorpha smallii

Elf orpine (Diamorpha smallii) is a showy plant but it is an annual plant - it grows anew from seed every year. 

Piedmont sandwort (Minuartia uniflora) with Diamorpha

Another annual plant is Piedmont sandwort (Minuartia uniflora). We found it mixed in with still other annual plants such as bluets (Houstonia sp.), dwarf dandelion (Krigia virginica), and, as shown here, with the Diamorpha. With the thin soil pockets on outcrops, it's not hard to imagine that shallow-rooted annual plants might be very well suited indeed.

The vistas were incredible. It's hard to represent what it looked like - how incredibly talented Mother Nature is when it comes to her own designs.

Here a variety of mosses, lichens, and grasses swirl and mingle with the red Diamorpha

Moss, lichens and Diamorpha with a natural stream

You might think a granite outcrop presents a harsh environment for plants. We were given a list of plants found on the preserve that was over 20 pages long! There are two pages of lichens alone. Of course only a few of those plants live ON the rock, but there was obviously plenty of places for more deep-rooted ones.

It was fun to find some of the plants we are very familiar with, somehow making it work in pockets of favorable growing conditions here and there. As we finished up our loop trail back to the entrance, we spied this blooming plum (Prunus sp.).

All in all it was a great trip to help us learn about and appreciate one of the many different natural environments in Georgia.

If you’d like to visit Heggie’s Rock, The Nature Conservancy does offer scheduled tours. Please click here to see the scheduled trips.


  1. What a beautiful place! I love to visit places like this and to learn to understand the ecosystem of how the pieces all fit together. You're so right, Mother Nature does have an amazing knack for putting the pieces together, and we could all benefit from observing her processes.

  2. Very neat! Thanks for sharing. I recently discovered your blog and it is a wealth of information. Best regards.

  3. I came here by way of Karin Hicks' blog. I live in SC in Greenwood county. Many of the plants you share are also here. I did a nature walk last year at Stephen's Creek in Clark Hill area. The hairy spiderwort was pointed out on that walk as very sensitive to radioactive material. Those in higher elevations were purple, those in the lower basin, closer to the water, (fed by Savannah River watershed) were pink. It was an interesting walk, as I imagine the granite outcrop one was. I look forward to reading more of your posts.