When the first pilots flew over the Coastal Plains of Georgia and the Carolinas, they were shocked to notice a seemingly endless number of elliptical depressions dotting the landscape, all oriented in the same direction as though something from outer space created them. These unusual formations are Carolina Bays, and their origin is a great scientific mystery.
The Carolina Bay ecosystem is threatened and a focus for conservation. As agriculture made its impact on the coastal plain, farmers learned that the Bays had good soil properties for crop cultivation, and many were subsequently drained and cleared. In addition, they are not protected under the Clean Water Act because they are isolated wetlands and not part of the country’s freshwater resources.
The site in The Natural Heritage Garden where we plan to exhibit a Carolina Bay is a small retention pond that leaks – in fact, we have been calling it "Leaky Pond" for many years. The site is perfect for a bay because of its similar elliptical shape and NW-SE orientation. Our Leaky Pond has a changing water level from winter to summer that will mimic the ecosystem of a natural Carolina Bay – something called the "draw-down" zone which is important for herbaceous species diversity.
Almost everyone is familiar with the Venus flytrap – a plant so strange that it prompted Charles Darwin to say it was the most wonderful plant on Earth. But did you know that the only place it grows naturally is in the Carolinas? From sundews to pitcher plants, there are over 25 species of carnivorous plants native to the Carolinas. There will be a living exhibit of all of these wondrous plants in The Natural Heritage Garden. This outdoor classroom will teach visitors how these plants have adapted to poor soil conditions and are able to trap their own supplemental "fertilizer" in the form of insects. Let’s face it - this exhibit is just plain FUN!