Tag Archives: Lake Conestee Nature Park

Excitment at Lake Conestee Nature Park

It’s been a perfect weekend in nearly every way. Just when the garden plants were beginning to wilt from lack of moisture we’ve had a deliciously rainy day and I was able to get a bit ahead with my work…writing two newspaper columns and organizing a number of future projects. None of that holds a candle to the excitement of yesterday, however, when I led a wildflower hike at Lake Conestee Nature Park and was then on hand to witness the release of a red-tailed hawk. The hawk, nursed back to health by Wildlife Rehab of Greenville, was a young bird that had been found disoriented and wasting away, probably after a collision with an automobile.

Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis).  Photo by Bob Knight.

Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). Photo by Bob Knight.

It was incredibly inspiring to see this handsome and intense bird of prey get a second chance at life. It was eager for its escape and made a quick leap to freedom when its handler lifted it towards nearby trees.

The great escape.  Photo by Bob Knight.

The great escape. Photo by Bob Knight.

The hike had its high points too. The open meadow on Forrester Farm Trail was cloaked in blooms. The most eye-catching of the flowers was Bachelor Button (Centaurea cyannus), an annual plant native to Europe but now naturalized throughout most of North America. Golden Ragwort (Senecio aureus), a native plant valuable to a host of indigenous insects was on the wane, but Queen Ann’s Lace (Daucus carota) was just beginning to come into its own.

Bachelor Button (Centaurea cyannus).  Photo by Bob Knight.

Bachelor Button (Centaurea cyannus). Photo by Bob Knight.

Golden Ragwort (Senecio aureus)

Golden Ragwort (Senecio aureus)

Queen Ann's Lace (Daucus carota)

Queen Ann’s Lace (Daucus carota)

In the nearby woodland, we discovered Fire Pink (Silene virginica) and Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium augustifolium), but the thrill of the day was the discovery of an Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) growing alongside Wild Ginger (Hexastylis). This ghostly plant produces no food of its own but lives on nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi that parasitize the roots of a nearby green plant.

Fire Pink (Silene virginica).  Photo by Bob Knight.

Fire Pink (Silene virginica). Photo by Bob Knight.

Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)

Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)

Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) & Wild Ginger (Hexastylis).  Photo by Bob Knight.

Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) & Wild Ginger (Hexastylis). Photo by Bob Knight.

Many thanks to Bob Knight, a brilliant photographer who joined the group hike, for the use of several photos.

New Invasive Alert

Yesterday I headed to Lake Conestee Nature Park, only a few miles from my home, to get a look at an invasive plant discovered in SC only weeks ago. Ficaria verna, commonly called fig buttercup, was found by a birder on an outing along a new section of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. The detection was a lucky break and efforts are now underway to search surrounding areas, map infestations using GPS coordinates, and attempt safe irradication.

Surprisingly, I had seen this plant before. It was once given to me as marsh-marigold (Caltha palustris), a seldom-seen native plant that grows in similar conditions. For a comparison of the two, go here.

I took photos to aid identification, but plants were no longer in bloom. Flowers can be seen on the link above. A notice from the SC Native Plant Society, with more facts, follows my photos. If you find fig buttercup on public property, such as a park or preserve, please report the infestation to the property manager or managing agency.

Fig buttercup foliage is leathery and deeply veined.  Leaf size increases with shade.

Fig buttercup foliage is leathery and deeply veined. Leaf size increases with shade.

Tuber-like roots and underside of leaves, pale and deeply veined, are distinctive.

Tuber-like roots and underside of leaves, pale and deeply veined, are distinctive.

Bulblets are found on the crown...

Bulblets are found on the crown…

and also on runners.

and also on runners.

Large-scale infestation

Large-scale infestation

Small-patch infestation

Small-patch infestation

Information below is taken from Upstate Happenings, newsletter of the Upstate Chapter of the SC Native Plant Society:

Fig buttercup has just been discovered in Greenville County. Never heard of it? Try Lesser Celadine. It might be in the gardening catalog on your kitchen table.

This is the first sighting of Ficaria verna growing outside of cultivation in SC. It is a vigorous plant that emerges in early spring before most natives, forming a green blanket which, once established, native plants cannot penetrate. Toothworts, Dutchman’s Breeches, Trout Lily, Trillium, and Bloodroot are some of the natives most at risk. Fig buttercup produces numerous tubers and bulblets, each of which can grow into a new plant when separated from the parent by animals, well-meaning weed-pullers, or rushing water.

Its bright buttery yellow flowers bloomed in April this year. Infestations are typically found in open woods, floodplains, meadows, and waste places. After flowering, its above-ground parts die back and are mostly gone by June; it survives the winter as thickened fingerlike underground stems.

Fig buttercup is a very serious and challenging pest and it is important we do everything we can to prevent it from establishing a beachhead. Its short life cycle offers very little time to attempt control. Chemical pesticides can be effective, but are best used early before natives and amphibians have emerged. Small infestations can be tackled by hand digging with a small trowel, but soil disturbance can encourage further infestation. If digging is attempted, care must be taken to bag every scrap of plant and to ensure the material is no longer viable before disposal.