Visiting Laurel Hill Preserve

The Southern Piedmont Chapter’s recent visit to Laurel Hill Preserve was a fabulous walk amongst paths carpeted with Partridge Berry and Club Moss under a canopy of Bigleaf Magnolia Magnolia macrophylla.

JD mag mac
Bigleaf Magnolia canopy, photo by Jennifer Daggy

While we never made it to the biggest Bigleaf Magnolia on the site (shown below in a tree hug by Larry Mellichamp), our group enjoyed wandering in the forest under those massive leaves. Larry Magnolia macrophylla Best IMG_20170907_180951570

Partridge Berry Mitchella repens

Our hike was lead by Laurel Hill Farm owner, Amy Nason, and former NCNPS President, Dr. Larry Mellichamp. As Dr. M pointed out, this is such an important conservation site because Bigleaf Magnolia is only found in 5 counties between Statesville and York in the Carolinas. It’s always fun to learn botany factoids from Dr. M, for instance…Bigleaf Magnolia is distinctive because the leaves have ears, and is one of only 3 Magnolia with that distinctive trait. The other 2 are M. fraseri (found only in the mountains, bright red fruit cone) and M. ashei (found in a limited range in Florida, but grows well in the Piedmont, blooms at a young age).

On our way down to the swinging bridge over Long Creek, we were fortunate to happen upon a wooly aphid dance on a Beech Tree branch. The rich woods have benefited from the summer rains and our group spotted Beech Drops, Collinsonia, Hearts-a-Burstin’, Galax, Indian Ghost Pipe, and Sourwood.

Bigleaf Magnolia cone

Laurel Hill is a working farm in Gaston County with goats, chickens and pigs. Amy milks the goats daily and if you’re interested in some of her farm products such as goat milk and cheese or eggs, contact her to join her farm email list at Amy and her family encourage visitors and are planning an invasive work day in September.  There are several study sites on the property from area university graduate students looking at snail and mushroom populations.

IMG_5648Laurel Hill Preserve was put into the Catawba Lands Conservancy by Frank Ewing, the former owner, and we were fortunate to be joined on this hike by his daughter Robin Ewing. During their tenure the property was primarily used as a plant nursery. Since we just happened to be there on Hurricane Irma eve, Robin commented that Hurricane Hugo, in 1989 changed the landscape due to massive amounts of tree fall and possibly opened the canopy to a greater population of Bigleaf Magnolia with huge number of fallen trees leading to more light openings.



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


MCSWCD Tree and Seedling Sale

The annual Mecklenburg County Soil and Water Conservation District seedling sale is a great opportunity to add eco-friendly and habit friendly native trees and shrubs to your garden. The pdf versions of the information forms are provided here. This year they have added hot links under each plant name on the informational pages that will tell you more about each plant. This helps you make the best choices for your needs. And a shout out to our favorite photographer and fellow NCNPS member, Will Stuart, who’s photos are featured on the brochure!

Leslie Vanden Herick and her team at MCSWCD always have a great selection of native trees and shrubs to offer at really affordable prices. And if you pre-order you can skip the line and pick them up Friday, Feb. 24. See details on the order form. The following paragraphs offer a little back story on their challenges in finding plant material to offer this year!

MCSWCD along with our partners at TreesCharlotte are very excited to be able to bring you our 46th Annual Tree Seedling Sale. It has been a bit of a bumpy road getting ready, but we finally have everything in order and have some exciting updates to tell you about. We have new species, new seedling type, and additional resources with information about the trees and shrubs.

First, we must recognize that our friends at the NC Forest Service are having a rough year! Historically, we have purchased a number of our seedling species from the NC Forest Service, specifically from their nursery located in Goldsboro, NC. Unfortunately, along with many other North Carolinians, the nursery was severely impacted by Hurricane Matthew. The nursery lost the majority of their stock, especially deciduous tree species. As such, we were forced at the last minute to fill the balance of our order from other sources. We must also recognize that many Forest Service and other agencies have been deployed to the western part of our state to manage wildfires. We will continue to keep them in our thoughts.

On to the fun stuff! New this year, we will be offering three species of the trees in tubling form. Tublings are seedlings that come in their own mini-pot (tube). It is our understanding that the seedlings grown as tublings have a higher success rate. We will be offering Beautyberry, Yaupon Holly and Highbush Blueberry in tubling form. Due to higher costs, these species along with the Fringe Tree, Chionanthus virginicus, will be sold for $3.00 per tree.

To give you a bit more information and visuals of each tree, we have also added links to each photo with additional information and photographs. We are very pleased to have had the opportunity to utilize the beautiful photographs taken by local wildlife and nature photographer Will Stuart. Remember, if you pre-order your trees you have your choice of selec on, avoid the lines and receive a 10% discount!

2017 Species Chart  annual-tree-seedling-sale-2017-species-chart

2017 Photos of Seedling List annual-tree-seedling-sale-2017-photos-with-links

2017 Order Form annual-tree-seedling-sale-2017-order-form