On steep, fire-sheltered slopes along our major rivers in the Piedmont is a true relict of the past - forests that were marooned here following the end of the last Ice Age. The Basic Mesic Forest is perhaps one of the rarest communities in the Piedmont of South Carolina. It shelters many endangered species, and there’s probably no showier place to visit in the spring. If you’ve ever had your soil tested, then you know that the soils in the Upstate are generally considered acid - below 5.5 pH. The basic mesic community has pH levels above 6.3, which is very uncommon. The reason: marble, amphibolite and limestone rocks rich in calcium and magnesium. The Mesic community is home to a rich herbaceous plant layer including Shooting Stars, Miccosukee Gooseberry, Lance- leaved Trillium, Faded Trillium, Dutchman’s Breeches and American Ginseng. All of these plants have their roots in the mountains and far to the north; however, they moved south during colder times and today have found a niche on the rich, steep, north-facing slopes at places like Stevens Creek Heritage Preserve in McCormick County.
Stroll through the gentle hills spotted with color and overwhelmingly vibrant green with strange and familiar forms scattered throughout. This is a place to learn, a place to appreciate the legacy of the past and its changes on the Piedmont of today.
What a strange flower; it is turned inside out! Flowers of this shape are also found on tomatoes and cranberries - but why? The answer is a close association with bumblebees and buzz pollination. When a bumble bee visits a shooting star flower, there is no place to land, so it has to suspend itself upside down while it captures the pollen. In this struggle, the vibration from the bee’s muscles triggers an explosion of pollen from the flower’s anthers. The bee is ‘showered’ with pollen and cannot help taking it to the next flower.