top of page

Notes from the Field: Flat Woods of Elberton

Updated: Jun 26

by Issac Ostrom

Last year in the spring while I was still a volunteer with Oconee River Land Trust (ORLT), then Stewardship Director Dan invited me to join Linda Chafin, Conservation Botanist at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and author of Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Georgia, and Stephanie Koontz, a plant ecologist with Georgia DNR, at a property in Elbert County. I was told we were going to document a population of Frasera caroliniensis – (American Columbo) – but of course the entire property ended up being more than interesting. 

I was stoked to be heading to Elberton, the granite capital of the world, as granite flatrock is my favorite habitat. But this time we weren’t on granite. One of the first things I usually do when looking at properties is to check a Geological map. Geology directly influences the biodiversity of plants. I have a few resources that I use, but my favorite is a free app called Rockd. Upon checking the area, I found metadacite and ultramafic soils. Ultramafic soils are tough to grow on so I was extra excited to see the plant diversity. One of the first things I noticed when we arrived at the property was the lack of oak species, and the understory trees beneath the pine in the uplands consisted mostly of Redbud, persimmon, winged elm, and green ash. After a short hike we arrived at the creek, looking for our target plant, the American Columbo. This population is 1 of only 2 known populations south of the North Georgia mountains and east of Atlanta in the state of Georgia. While we were able to find it, it wasn’t quite in flower yet. However, we found a lot of other exciting plants along the way back including redring milkweed, one or two skullcaps- Scutellaria, and some healthy black cohosh populations. I was starstruck, and saw a lot of plants for the first time and some that I wouldn't have expected to encounter in Elbert County. 

 A year later I returned to the property to monitor it as a land trust employee.  This time I sat down and talked with the owner George and his land manager Ricky before walking the property. They told me all about the property from the prescribed burn schedule and rotation, to the “catching ponds'' and turkey spots. It was early May and the whole forest roared with 13-year cicadas chirping. During our little morning chat George mentioned that he burned 90% of the property between January and April all the way back to the creek, making it an easy walkthrough. Once down at creek level I looked up and admired the dominant black walnut, basswood, hornbeam, green ash and pawpaw canopy trees. I revisited the American Columbo population and was amazed to witness a swath of more than 75 individuals popping up – the population had exploded thanks to the controlled burns.

 Further up the trail, I found a nice spot to sit by the creek and eat a snack. As I turned around to get back on trail, I miraculously saw a plant I'd only read about – the Piedmont barbara’s button (Marshallia obovata) – wedding gown white and almost glowing in the dimly lit edges of the creek banks. I wrapped up the site visit by reporting back to George and reporting the wonderful plants I saw. He was pleased to hear I had found such an unusual plant and planned on heading down to take a look for himself. It’s always a treat working with our landowners who steward these wonderful conservation easement properties. Seeing firsthand the passion and work that goes into proactive land stewardship is inspiring. 

42 views2 comments

2 comentarios

Collaborating with the landowners who preserve these lovely conservation easement sites is essential. doodle games

Me gusta

 Collaborating with the landowners who maintain these beautiful conservation easement lands is an absolute spacebar clicker

Me gusta
bottom of page