Wildflower Greenway

We should  extend a thank you to the Mecklenburg County Parks and Rec Department in conjunction with Charlotte Water Department for the sorta secret wildflower greenway walk adjacent to McAlpine Creek Park. From what I understand, when Charlotte Water was installing a relief sewer line along the creek,  a seed mix was planted in this recently disturbed area to hold the soil.


Catherine Luckenbaugh, currently Currator of the Mecklenburg County Herbarium located at Reedy Creek Nature Preserve shared this:

“I spent several years of my career in private industry working out the right species mix and percent composition to achieve a native mix that would provide the nearly instantaneous erosion control properties that Charlotte Water needs…sounded easy when I started the project, but it did take some monitoring and trial and error to get what they needed. I’m just glad they’re still using it.”

This wildflower creekbank/greenway is also an example of plant communities, as discussed by Lisa Tompkins at the recent NCNPS Annual Picnic at Hagenstone Park. Drawing from the ideas in the recent book by Claudia West and Thomas Ranier, Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes, Lisa described the various layers found in  plant communities, from green “mulch” to medium and tall wildflowers and grasses.

Do you ever find yourself wondering about some lovely wildflower you happened on in a Mecklenburg County park? Try this link to MeckFlora, a new and growing online tool for plant identification. It is organized by park, by flower color and plant type.

Our family has made it a point to wander this portion of the McAlpine Creek Greenway on a regular basis to see what is in bloom. These photos are from the greenway in mid June 2017, and the Rudbeckia display appears  to be at peak performance.


IMG_5294Park at the Sardis Road parking lot (110 Old Bell Road Charlotte, NC 28270) and turn left from the parking lot access trial instead of right toward McAlpine Park. This unpaved, dirt trail wanders adjacent to McAlpine Creek toward Providence Road. Because of the recent sewer work, it remains sunny and open. And one note….please take home only photos….and leave the wildflowers in the park for others to enjoy.

Visiting the Garden of Audrey and Larry Mellichamp

For our May 2017 meeting we met at the garden of two of our favorite botanists, Audrey and Larry Mellichamp. Over many years they have collected plants and added them to their suburban lot, creating a green sanctuary that reflects their deep knowledge and love of the plant kingdom. Many of the plants are native to North Carolina, but there are also those that earned inclusion with some sort of particular charm, ie. a stinky titan arum.

I hope you were there, but if not, here’s a bit of what you missed. If you were there, enjoy it anew through the photos!


Spigelia marilandica was so happy and plentiful, it could be considered a signature plant for this garden.


Red buds have a surprising reveal — yellow!


Orange kitty doesn’t seem to mind dozens of people invading his territory. He regards us all with an air of nonchalance.


Stones outline this lush bed of mixed perennials.


A few wire hanging baskets, repurposed, provide critter control. Don’t you love the natural edging, too? It’s perfectly in keeping with the overall native plant theme.


Audrey greets visitors and answers questions about the garden and the plants, and occasionally quizzes someone — in other words, me! — about the correct pronunciation of Oenothera. (I’m a former student of hers!) I think I passed the test.


A concrete morel is a charming garden surprise.


Amorphophallus species are found mostly in Asia, but this gorgeous, smelly plant looks right at home amid the penstemons and Itea.


Around back Larry enjoys chatting with visitors on the deck.

Mellichamp Garden tour - group shot

The shady slope behind the house is packed with woodland plants. Larry gave us a tour.

Harper’s Ginger (Hexastylis speciosa) is flowering underneath those light green leaves.


Purple Flowering-raspberry (Rubus odoratus)

Climbing Hydrangea in bloom (1)

Native Climbing Hydrangea (Decumaria barbara)

Young Bigleaf Magnolia

A young Bigleaf Magnolia is on its way to flowering glory. These are just a few of what must be dozens of species (or more?) on that slope.


It wouldn’t be a Mellichamp garden without carnivorous plants!


Their daughter Suzanne Mellichamp is the artist/potter who provided the adorable clay pitcher plants.


Thanks to Beth for the hard work and the smiles — the t-shirt/plant sale was a big success!


Thank you very much to Lisa Tompkins for photos 1, 11, 14, 15!


Thank you especially to the Mellichamps for allowing us to visit your beautiful garden — what a rare treat!


Searching for Bigleaf Magnolia blossoms at Redlair

NCNPS members were very lucky to be able to visit Redlair Farm and Forest by the invitation of Catawba Lands Conservancy last week. You may think the Bigleaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) flower in the above photo looks a little dark…that’s because Haywood Rankin, steward of the Redlair preserve  cleverly toured our small group up hill and down, along the banks of the East Fork of the Catawba River before finally revealing our first Bigleaf Magnolia blooms at eye level, right before our evening hike ended. Even in the fading twilight, those white blossoms with a touch of purple on each petal were impressive.

Haywood Rankin

Nearly 740 acres in Gastonia known as the The Redlair Plant Conservation Preserve was added to NC’s Plant Conservation Program in 2014. This land was formerly a portion of Catawba Lands Conservancy as far back as 1995, because the Rankin family wished to preserve the land and its natural resources. The preserve contains state threatened Bigleaf Magnolia plants and the federally protected Schweinitzi’s Sunflower.  This exemplary property is a NC Natural Heritage site and only open with express permission from the Plant Conservation Program.

Our hike included views of the swollen and muddy South Fork Catawba River, and several delightful streams with small cascading waterfalls. The trails included  beautiful hardwood forest, beneath giant patches of the Bigleaf Magnolia in addition to winding Mountain Laurel thickets.

New Jersey Tea Ceanothus americana

As we walked the many trails that Haywood has created on this property we encountered New Jersey Tea, Pipsissewa, Black Cohosh and young stalks of Schweinitzi’s Sunflower (Helianthus schweinitzii). We hope to arrange a return visit in September to visit these endangered sunflowers in bloom.

To learn more about the history and ecology of Redlair Farm and Forest click here. We were joined on this hike by Lesley Starke, Plant Ecologist, NC Plant Conservation Program. Many thanks to Mary Ann Harrison and Catawba Lands Conservancy for including NCNPS members in this outing. It was a wonderful treat.

Black Cohosh Actaea racemosa


NCNPS Annual Picnic and time to sign up for Cullowhee

Begin forwarded message:

From: Beth Davis

Subject: NCNPS Annual Picnic and time to sign up for Cullowhee

Date: May 18, 2017 3:01:07 PM EDT

To: Beth Davis

Bcc: aCLTgarden

Annual State Picnic June 3

Yay! It’s that time of year when NC Native Plant Society Members are looking forward to the annual state picnic. Mark your calendars for the June 3 (11-3PM) gathering at Hagan Stone State Park (near Winston Salem) for good BBQ and the best native plant auction in the state. Join us to make new friends and greet old friends from across the state. More details on our website . GPS address is 5920 Hagan Stone Park Rd.,Pleasant Gardens, NC 27313

​Thank you to Thanh Huynh for this photo from the Spring trip silent auction. Just a taste for the Annual Picnic plant auction extravaganza.

Cullowhee Native Plant Conference

And, if you haven’t gotten enough of the native plant world this spring and summer, register now for the 34th Annual Cullowhee Native Plant Conference July 19-22, 2017! You too can be in our group photo for 2017…representing the many NCNPS attendees at this regional conference. For more information and to register online visit the WCU website . You can sign up to attend for all 4 days, or as few as 1-2 days. Rooms available in WCU dorms. Sign up early to get first choice of the best hikes or class sessions. Great speakers, great colleagues, and of course great hikes! It’s not to be missed!

​Because of these big events, the Southern Piedmont Chapter takes a break from formal programs in June and July. However, stay tuned for “pop-up hikes” that may come up quickly as members find hikes and places to share. These hikes are limited to members only. Stay tuned. And we will resume our regular programs in August.​