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Piedmont Prairie

Enormous herds of Bison and Elk being pursued by wolves across a sea of flowing grasses as high as a man’s head, punctuated by the brilliant yellow and pink of sunflowers and coneflowers stretching to the horizon. Though you might think we are talking about Oklahoma, this was South Carolina. Help us bring the Piedmont Prairie back to life through an expansive 10-acre exhibit here in the Natural Heritage Garden in a “revitalized” Kelly Meadow.

Imagine what will stand before you here was once the predominant habitat in South Carolina’s Piedmont (vast prairies and savannas interrupted by enormous thickets of cane, our native bamboo) is right here in the Garden. The remnants of the Piedmont Prairies exist mostly along roadbanks and railroads today, but they still hold a large number of our most uncommon and distinctive species, many found nowhere else on earth.

Most of us live in the Piedmont. It’s the place we call home. If we should know any single region well, it should be this one. However, very few of us realize that what we think of as natural today was not a part of the Piedmont that the Pre-Columbian inhabitants or 18th century South Carolinians knew. This is a land that has been molded by the hand of man, from the fire that gave birth to the prairies, to the farming practices that eroded our rich topsoil and left us with the characteristic red clay, to the lack of fire on abandoned cotton fields that has left us with forests of pine, oak and hickory. All of it bears the mark of the hand of man. The Piedmont gives us one of the most powerful stories of the connections and legacies of our decisions.