Eco-activists: A few people can make a real difference!

Dimpled trout lilies  (Erythronium umbilicatum)  are a spring ephemeral and most of the year they are hardly noticeable on the forest floor.

Dimpled trout lilies (Erythronium umbilicatum) are a spring ephemeral and most of the year they are hardly noticeable on the forest floor.

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.)

History

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 Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve--140 acres which was saved from development.

The Wolf Creek Trout Lily Preserve140 acres which was saved from development.

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.

Acres of trout lilies on a gentle south-facing slope.

Acres of trout lilies on a gentle north-facing slope.

The trout lilies, also known as dog-toothed violets, were magical.

The trout lilies, also known as dog-toothed violets, were magical.

Beth Grant, one of the few activists who saved this ecosystem from development, explained that a trout lily doesn't bloom until it's 5 years old.

Beth Grant, one of the activists who saved this ecosystem from development, explained that a trout lily doesnt bloom until its 5 years old.

The tour

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.

The spotted trilliums (Trillium maculatum) were common on this slope and elsewhere around the area, but probably only thousands of them--not millions.

The spotted trilliums (Trillium maculatum) were common on this slope and elsewhere around the area, but probably only thousands of themnot millions.

So if the plant above is a trillium, should this be a quadrillium?

So if the plant above is a trillium, should this be a quadrillium?

The tiny twayblade orchid (Listeria australis) was marked with tape so people would be sure to notice it.

The tiny twayblade orchid (Listeria australis) was marked with tape so people would be sure to notice it.

A common violet.

A true violet.

At bottom of the slope, there were no trout lilies. Beth pointed to some of the remaining invasive privets (just the left of her hand) that hadn't been removed yet. She said that this bottom land was solid with them.

At bottom of the slope, there were no trout lilies. Beth pointed to some of the remaining invasive privets (the light green shrubs just above and to the left of her hand) that havent been removed yet. She said that this bottom land had been solid with them.

Mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa) shells. This preserve provides good wildlife habitat in many ways.

Mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa) shells. This preserve provides good wildlife habitat in many ways.

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

Just a few people can accomplish amazing feats.

Just a few people CAN accomplish amazing feats.

Saving the environment is up to us. What projects are you working on?

© 2014, Ginny Stibolt. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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Comments

  1. Cora Howlett says

    Ginny, great post! So happy these dedicated people were able to buy the property and restore the native plants and also remove the invasive privets. I am waging a similar battle (removing privet) on our woodland property, and I also constantly see the privet along roadsides and on so many peoples properties. They must not be aware. Sad.

    Reply
    • Ginny Stibolt says

      Yes, we have been battling the Asian privets here in northeastern Florida, too. But we also have several native privets in the genus Forestiera, instead of the invasive Ligustrums. The eastern swampprivet (Forestiera acuminata) is native to northern Florida, up the east coast to South Carolina, northward to Ohio and westward over to Texas. So people need to be sure of the ID before they start yanking it out.

      Here is a link to the genus that includes photos to help see the differences: http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Genus.aspx?id=524
      Ginny Stibolt recently posted..From compost to dinners

      Reply
  2. Carole says

    Wonderful piece, Ginny. Wonderful way to spend Valentins Day. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Ginny Stibolt says

      Glad you enjoyed it, Carole. Actually we extended our stay in Floridas Panhandle and spent the next day at Falling waters State ParkFloridas highest park with a whopping 324 elevation. Heres my post on the park over on the FNPS blog: http://fnpsblog.blogspot.com/2014/02/falling-waters-state-park-profile.html
      Ginny Stibolt recently posted..From compost to dinners

      Reply
      • suzanne dingwell says

        Its always great to hear about the success stories! Here in the northern Virginia/Metro DC area I have come to learn that many of the little parks in this area are the result of just one or two people who just said, absolutely no, not on my watch, and then invested the time and energy that prevented the destruction of a natural area. How grateful so many people are for what they did. Not the mention the wildlife that has benefited. Thanks for this post and its important reminder that what we do counts!

        Reply
        • Ginny Stibolt says

          Yes, its amazing how much each of us can accomplish. The wringing of ones hands doesnt accomplish anything; you have to actually DO something. Sometimes youll fail, but you always learn something from each effort.
          Ginny Stibolt recently posted..From compost to dinners

          Reply
  3. Tony McGuigan says

    Ginny,
    Enjoyed your post love the Margaret Mead quote. Keep the faith!
    Tony
    Tony McGuigan recently posted..5 Minutes of Kayaking on the Laguna de Santa Rosa

    Reply
    • Ginny Stibolt says

      Thanks Tony. Yes, I love Margaret Mead. She really understood the human psyche.
      Ginny Stibolt recently posted..From compost to dinners

      Reply
  4. Susan J. Tweit says

    What a beautiful preserve, Ginny, and an inspiring story! I love that you went to visit for Valentines Dayso appropriate! BTW, here in the West, we call Erythroniums glacier lilies because theyre high mountain plants that bloom in the dappled shade of forests and meadow edges were the snowpack is thick.
    Susan J. Tweit recently posted..Bless the Birds update

    Reply
    • Ginny Stibolt says

      Hi Susan,
      Ive seen those glacier lilies and they are beautiful, too. Spring ephemerals all deserve more attention and their particular high-canopy forests are habitats that need ongoing protection.
      Ginny Stibolt recently posted..From compost to dinners

      Reply

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    [] 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, it’s the only thing that ever has.  []

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