Idyllic – that’s the only way to describe the ancient forests that have flourished in our mountains for eons. Though they occupy such a small portion of the landmass of South Carolina, our humid gorges and sheltered coves hold a disproportionately large number of our rare species and have been a refuge of life through change for millennia. The cove forests of the southern Appalachians harbor more species of trees than all of northern Europe and over 4,000 species of vascular plants. This makes our backyard a biodiversity hotspot. Our hills, the southern Blue Ridge escarpment, host more species of Trillium, Wild Ginger and Salamanders than any other similar-sized patch of ground. These forests are home to tropical ferns found growing beneath Yellow Birch, more typical of Canada. The humid gorges, high rainfall, diverse geology and elevation range create the magic to make such combinations possible.
Stroll through a piece of Jocassee Valley that was transported to the South Carolina Botanical Garden, from what is now Lake Jocassee, back in the 1960s and discover for yourself what André Michaux found there nearly 250 years ago – the legendary Oconee Bell. Or stroll further through the vibrant colors of a cove brimming with trillium and other spring wildflowers growing in rich, neutral soils such as we find in Eastatoe Valley. The collection of plants found here will be the finest exhibit of its kind, a laboratory for research, an outdoor classroom, and an inspiring nook for all to enjoy.