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Karyn Sealy of Aiken, who has many friends here in Edgefield and exhibits some of her art and writing at Mercy Me! on Main Street, here, is sharing with us a most exciting find. (She also has published garden articles in our print edition.) The Nature Conservancy of South Carolina has posted a brief write-up of this find on their Facebook page for those who wish to look further. Ed, Note
It was my first visit to The Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve in Lexington, South Carolina, and who would have guessed that on that journey an orchid would make a very surprising reappearance. On Sunday June, 2, of this year a small group met in a sandy parking lot in Pelion, South Carolina. The group headed up the trail into a place I had never explored before. The shady path was pleasant and soon the “peachtree” shaped rock greeted us with its solitary magnificence. It is a very unexpected pleasure to look upon a sculpture created entirely by nature and balanced delicately on a narrow base.
Across from Peachtree Rock was a gentle waterfall and creek. All of this nestled within a cove created by a natural rock wall. The sandy beach within this outdoor room, held a young family with a dog enjoying the sights and sounds of the waterfall. Resurrection fern covered the sandstone boulders. Soon we broke into a clearing of pure white sand. We continued up the hill to The Little Peachtree Rock. Here we could clearly see the striations and fossils still reminiscent on the stones as well as the holes where ghost crabs would have made residence when this part of the world was an inlet to the Atlantic Ocean. It is fun to imagine that this dry sandy land used to be rich coastal plain.
At the top of the ridge we stood in awe at the view across the valley. The long leaf pines all around us were being restored as a habitat. The undergrowth is controlled by fire and is low to the ground as it regrows, making the view spectacular. I was taking my time along the ridge trail enjoying it and trying to identify the plants with my walking partner when I spotted something pink in the shrubs. At first I thought it was a gladiola escaped from an old homesite. I looked harder, because I love gladiolas. I saw that there was only one bloom per stalk, and that there were dark brown sepals protruding backwards from the bloom, that is when I yelled “ORCHID! WE HAVE AN ORCHID HERE!”
Two days later I returned to the site with a local naturalist, Rudy Mancke, to verify the find, marking the GPS coordinates and officially identifying that the Rosebud Orchid, Cleistes divaricata, found in the coastal plains of South Carolina. This is the first known example to be found in Lexington County, South Carolina. The Nature Conservancy co-manages the property with the South Carolina Department on Natural Resources. They were contacted and are very excited to add this to their records. I was simply at the right place at the right time. I hope that you and your friends and family will take your own exciting adventure in South Carolina this summer. Our state is a special place full of cultural history and natural history. Who knows what you may discover!