by Laura Hall
Friends came together to preserve this land along the Middle Oconee River. The sandy river bluffs are full of native grasses and spring wildflowers including this Lyre leaf sage (Salvia lyrata), a perennial herb that grows wild across much of the eastern U.S.
Along the edge of the river, where a small clear stream flows into the river, are hundreds of Tiger Swallowtail butterflies ‘puddling’ -likely attracted by salt and other nutrients that have accumulated in a small pile of pebbles. Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars feed on tulip poplar and wild cherry, common species in the mesic forests found on the property.
In the understory of the oak hickory beech forest there are large expanses of longleaf woodoats (Chasmanthium sessiliflorum), a short native grass, which attracts quail, turkey and deer, who feed on the numerous seeds this plant produces. Several species of blueberries are growing as well in the understory of this forest. Darrell Garner, one of the landowners, when out with his family walking the land, has seen dozens of wild turkey gathering with groups of deer in these areas.
This 105-acre land was placed into a conservation easement last year and has so many diverse and intact habitats, while only being 20 miles from Athens and Interstate 85. The landowners plan to preserve an adjacent 129-acre property along the river this year. Across the river is ORLT’s first conservation easement, donated by Walt Cook, preserving a beautiful mesic forest.