Tag Archives: South Georgia Trees & Shrubs

Male Longleaf Pine, Ben Hill County

Longleaf Pine Pinus palustris Bloom Male Cone Formation Ben Hill County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2016

Most people are familiar with pine cones. But those are the woody, female cones. Not everyone would recognize this herbaceous bloom as the male cone, but it’s a beautiful thing in its own right. The longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) was once the dominant tree of the South, covering 92 million acres throughout the region. Today, it survives on just 3 million scattered acres.  Responsible landowners have begun to plant them in an effort to restore habitat and state agencies throughout the South manage them on public lands.  For a beautiful illustrated work on the subject, check out Longleaf, Far as the Eye Can See, from the University of North Carolina Press. For a volume that speaks lyrically of the ecology of our wonderful South Georgia forests and the human culture they’ve always supported, read my friend Janisse Ray’s Ecology of a Cracker Childhood. (See links below).

http://uncpress.unc.edu/books/11869.html

http://milkweed.org/shop/product/395/ecology-of-a-cracker-childhood/

 

 

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Alapaha River Scrublands, Irwin County

Dirt Road Alapaha River Scrublands Floodplain Irwin County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

Much of the land surrounding the upper reaches of the Alapaha River is characterized by sandy soils, dunes and scrub oaks. They’re most often encountered by hunters and fishermen but they’re a magnificent ecosystem, worthy of exploring when you can get access. Several endangered species call these scrublands home.

Alapaha River Sand Dunes Scrublands Fragile Ecosystem Irwin County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

The Alapaha originates in southern Dooly County and flows southerly through or along the borders of Crisp, Wilcox, Turner, Ben Hill, Irwin, Tift, Berrien, Atkinson, Lanier, Lowndes, and Echols in Georgia and Hamilton County in Florida. The Willacoochee and Alapahoochee Rivers are its two main tributaries. It flows into the Suwanee River 1o miles south of Jasper, Florida.

Alapaha River Scrublands Irwin County GA Sunset Moss Covered Oak Trees Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is ubiquitous.

Fallen Oak beside Alapaha River Canal Irwin County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

The remains of a weather-damaged oak lie beside the banks of a man-made canal near the river.

Alapaha River Sand Bar Scrublands Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

The Alapaha isn’t widely known beyond the counties it embraces except by a few kayakers and canoeists, yet it courses 202 miles from its headwaters to its confluence with the Suwanee. Its levels are increasingly strained by modern agricultural practices in a region considered to harbor some of the most productive farmland in the state. It’s particularly important to me as it’s where I first went fishing in a boat with my father as a very young boy. I may be foolish to think so, but I believe people who live near the river will always have a strong desire to protect it.

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Effects of Okefenokee Wildfires, Brantley County

Brantley County GA 2011 Wildfire Effects Landscape Pine Forests Racepond Fire Okefenokee Area Picture Image Photograph Copyright © Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

Driving from Racepond to Hoboken, on Georgia Highway 121, you’ll notice several miles of desolate landscape like this, all the result of the Racepond Fire of 2011, which eventually burned 21,000 acres.

http://jacksonville.com/news/georgia/2012-02-04/story/southeast-georgia-fire-season-could-be-repeat-2011

http://jacksonville.com/news/georgia/2011-06-03/story/firefighters-making-headway-race-pond-fire

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Cypress Swamp, Waynesville

Waynesville GA Brantley County Cypress Pond Swamp Coreopsis Natural Area Picture Image Photograph Copyright © Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

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Wild Pear Tree in Bloom, Tattnall County

Wild Hog Pear Pyrus pyraster Early Blooming February Sign of Spring in South Blossoms Picture Image Photograph © Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

Old timers in South Georgia called wild pears (Pyrus pyraster) “hog” pears because the hard fruit takes so long to ripen that the only creature said to eat it is a hog. They are often seen as a first sign of springtime in the Deep South. They were once to be found on every farm in South Georgia; my great-grandmother made wonderful fried pear tarts when they ripened, usually in late summer or early autumn.

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Grand Bay, Lowndes County

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Grand Bay is located within a 13,000-acre wetlands system which is said to be the second largest natural blackwater wetland in the state, after the Okefenokee Swamp. It is of the type of land features known as “Carolina bays” which, according to one theory were created by meteor showers. Dudley’s Hammock, a rare example of a mature broadleaf-evergreen hammock community, is found in the area. Strolling leisurely along the boardwalk which provides easy access to the wetland, one of the most beautiful plants likely to be encountered in late spring and summer is the Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), as pictured below.

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At the end of the half-mile boardwalk is the 54-foot Kinderlou Tower, which served as a fire lookout in nearby Kinderlou Forest from 1939-1993. It was donated to the state by Harley Langdale, Jr., a prominent Valdosta businessman. Be advised in summer that the walk up the tower can be exhausting and that numerous red wasps nest on the structure. The view from the top, though, is worth the effort.

grand-bay-wma-aerial-view-from-kinderlou-tower-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2012

To reach Grand Bay WMA from Valdosta take U. S. Highway 221 North approximately 10 miles and turn left on Knight’s Academy Road. Go 1.5 miles to the entrance sign on the right. The entrance road leads 1 mile north to a “T”. The boardwalk is to your left, the interpretive center and canoe trail entrance to your right. A Georgia Outdoor Recreation Pass, or GORP, is now required for access; for more information, call the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division at 229-426-5267.

grand-bay-wma-wetlands-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2012

An aside: My good friend Jan Stokes, who had a long career with DNR at Bowens Mill, pointed out to me in an email just how difficult a task it was to build the boardwalk in 100-degree and freezing weather over several years, battling snakes and alligators at every turn. Their dedication to the project mirrored the enthusiasm of Tip Hon, who was the guiding force behind the state’s vision for Grand Bay WMA.

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Moody Forest Natural Area, Appling County

moody-forest-natural-area-longleaf-pine-forest-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2012In 2001, the Nature Conservancy and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources purchased 3,500 acres from the Moody family, which had owned and managed the land for generation. Subsequent purchases by the state added another 1,000 acres and today the entire property is operated under a cooperative agreement between the two partners…The arrangement–the first public-private conservation partnership in the state–has proven to be more effective than either group could have hoped for… –From the Nature Conservancy’s Moody Forest Fact Sheet.
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Cypress and tupelo are the dominant trees of the bottomlands at Moody Forest. Many of the trees are so old that they’re a wonder in themselves, a living monument to a wild Georgia that is all but gone.
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 Numerous natural ponds and wetlands can be found here throughout most of the year.
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 The forest borders the mighty Altamaha River, which is particularly beautiful here.
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I’ve consistently found some of the largest sandbars on the river near Moody Forest.
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 Enjoy your time here and take the time to really look at the forest on your way out. Wildlife reigns supreme and you never know what you might see.
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