Sunday, July 24, 2016

Special Plants, Special Places: Mountain Bog

It’s always fun to get a chance to see some of the special places in Georgia and the unique plants that grow there. I recently had a chance to visit what is called a mountain bog, an area considered to be the last “low mountain seepage bog community in Georgia.”
Green pitcher plant (Sarracenia oreophila)

How did I get to see such a special site? I volunteered to help manage invasive plants there. The location is the Reed Branch Wet Meadow Preserve and it is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. It is located in Towns County in Georgia, near the North Carolina state line. They periodically hold workdays to manage some of the aggressive plants that encroach on the special plants. You can read more about the site here and find contact details if you’d like to volunteer, but here is a quick description from that webpage:
Consisting of 5 acres in Towns County on the banks of Lake Chatuge near the North Carolina/Georgia border, Reed Branch Wet Meadow preserve is the last example of a low mountain seepage bog community in Georgia. The site is dominated by shrubs and herbs growing in shallow, acidic soil over bedrock. Water flowing over the rock often saturates the soil, seeping out of the ground. This mountain seep community is unique because it is home to a large number of plant species typical of the Coastal Plains that are usually not found in north Georgia like sundews, colicroot, and meadow-beauties.
Rosepink (Sabatia angularis)
We met our TNC leaders on a hot and sunny Saturday in a field full of Queen Anne’s lace. As we waited for the rest of the volunteers, we put on sunscreen and insect spray and bagged up several dozen QAL seedheads for the trash. There were plenty of native plants to admire, including big bunches of blooming annual rosepink (Sabatia angularis) and narrow-leaved mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium). We got our assignments, gathered our tools and headed off to work.

The showiest protected plant there is the green pitcher plant (Sarracenia oreophila), but there are others. Our tasks consisted of cutting red maple (Acer rubrum) saplings that were shading out the plants as well as preparing areas for a future burn. We walked through a sunny field on our way to the sensitive area. I noticed how short the grass was compared to the area where we parked and was told that it had been burned several years ago. The native grasses were doing well as a result, and we saw many native flowering perennials such as the annual Sabatia, colic root (Aletris farinosa), several species of goldenrod (Solidago), several species of Eupatorium, white-topped aster (Sericocarpus linifolius), orange milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), skullcap (Scutellaria integrifolia), prairie bluehearts (Buchnera americana) and much more. Some had finished flowering and others were just starting.

Marsh-pink (Sabatia campanulata)

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
From there we walked further towards the lake and the vegetation composition changed again. We had entered the seepage area. Pitcher plants grew in clumps, interspersed with the hot-pink blooms of slender marsh-pink (Sabatia campanulata) and the white flowers of Maryland meadowbeauty (Rhexia mariana). Around the area were groups of buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), the exotic, round inflorescences sparkling in the sun, attracting numerous pollinators. Here we also found beautiful purple-headed sneezeweed (Helenium flexuosum), with fresh blooms decorated with golden pollen. 

Sneezeweed (Helenium flexuosum)
Meadowbeauty (Rhexia mariana)

A few pink blooms caught our attention and we realized that a big sweep of pink coreopsis (Coreopsis rosea) was just days away from a spectacular show.  In smaller numbers, but no less spectacular, were blooming pink milkweeds (Asclepias incarnata var. pulchra) with leaves that were noticeably wider and pubescent compared to the ones in our gardens. I spotted a pale blue flower and went closer to find it was savanna eryngo (Eryngium integrifolium), another new one for me. A drift of white dots to the side was a group of bog buttons or pipewort (Eriocaulon decangulare).

Pink coreopsis (Coreopsis rosea)
Eryngium integrifolium

Asclepias incarnata var. pulchra

A thunderstorm blew in about 2 pm so we packed up our tools and dashed back to our cars, happy to have helped in this special place. What a nice day seeing new plants, meeting new people and helping to keep a good thing going.


  1. What great photos you got of these wildflowers!
    I know almost all of these, I have seen them at Arabia and Panola Mountain. In fact, we saw the Rosepink yesterday at Panola, now I know what it is!
    Pink coreopsis? Have I seen it and not known what it was? I know several types of coreopis, but they are all yellow!
    Love that pitcher plant, never saw that one before.
    Glad you were able to do this with the Nature Conservancy! (Oh and the button bush I have seen at Arabia but it is pink instead of white!)

  2. What a spectacular place! I love any place that has buttonbush. One of my all time favorite plants. And they got rain? How lucky!