Saving the southernmost and possibly the most extensive population of dimpled trout lilies
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, its the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead
I first heard about Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve at the 2010 Florida Native Plant Society Conference in Tallahassee when Dan Miller made a lunchtime presentation. He told about how he a few others had saved a unique acres-wide population of trout lilies in south Georgia (north of Tallahassee, FL) from development. His photos and his story took my breath away. This year I knew when they were going to bloom because of photos posted on Facebook, so my husband and I made the three-hour trek out to the preserve on Valentines Day. (Yes, no flowers were harmed for my Valentines Day treat.)
The property had been owned by a lumber company that had selectively harvested most of the spruce pines (Pinus glabra) from the site in 2007, but had left the beeches, magnolias, maples and the other trees in place. In February 2008 The FNPS chapter in Tallahassee ran a field trip there and some of the participants decided that they would try to save this property. First they went to organizations like The Nature Conservancy, which said that the project was too small, finally they found a Georgia Land Grant Conservation Program. This program funds half of the cost for conservation properties if the locals raised the other half and the county would have title to it. Grady County agreed to take the title, but they would not spend any money for procurement or for maintenance. So now it was up to a small group of dedicated individuals to raise the money and come up with a maintenance plan.
The property owner lowered the price several times and finally sold it at no profit. This was in the middle of the economic slump so he did gain a tax credit. The fund raising went fairly well with several individuals donating sizable amounts, but it was still a little more than $40,000 short as the last deadline loomed. Finally, an anonymous donor wrote a check for the rest of the amount and the deal was done! They had created a 140- acre preserve to protect the 13 acres where the trout lilies grew.
Millions of dimpled trout lilies (Erythronium umbilicatum) grow on a gentle north-facing slope along with spotted trillium (Trillium maculatum), spring coralroot (Corallorhiza wisteriana), twayblade orchid (Listeria australis) and some bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), which was not up yet when we were there. These are all spring ephemerals that sprout and bloom under a high deciduous forest in early spring before the leaves emerge. In the deep shade of summer through the fall and into winter, you would hardly notice them. On the other side of the ridge, there are some wildflowers but very few trout lilies on that south-facing slope.
We arrived at noon and had time to take some photos before the 2pm guided tour led by Beth Grant one of the eco-activists who saved this ecosystem. (The lilies open in the afternoon.) While seeing the trout lilies and walking the trail by ourselves was great, Beths tour helped us really appreciate this treasure. 8 people came for her tour. She explained some of the history of the preserve, but she also went into detail on the trout lily biology. A trout lily matures slowly and doesnt bloom for 5 years, but no one really knows how long they can live. The reason for the dog-toothed violet common name is that the small white tubers look like a dogs tooth, but of course she did not dig any up to demonstrate this fact. She also pointed out those tiny twayblade orchids and the coralroots that we had missed even though they were circled with pink tape. She talked about how much invasive privet that she and her monthly volunteers have pulled out of the flat land at the bottom of the trout lily slope. Very inspiring.
Saving the environment gets in your blood
As we were ready to leave before her 4pm tour, Beth handed me a flyer for Lost Creek Forest, their next project where some public-owned property in the next county with a mature hardwood forest and some rare and endangered plants had been saved from becoming an industrial center. I guess once you see what you can accomplish for the greater good; its hard to stop.
We wont have a society if we destroy the environment. Margaret Mead
Saving the environment is up to us. What projects are you working on?
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