I even found one with greenish spots on the flowers:
There are about a dozen Hexastylis species in the eastern U.S., some of them quite rare, but almost any walk in the woods in the Southern Appalachian Mountains will lead you to find one or more of these species. You might ask how the Little Heartleaf differs from some of the other Heartleaf species. From my observations, there is one main characteristic that is fairly easy to spot. It is the shape of the flower. For Little Heartleaf, it is similar to Hexastylis heterophylla or Variable Heartleaf (which it more closely mimics), but the size of the corolla tube is much shorter for Little Heartleaf. Its corolla opening is as wide or wider than the depth of the corolla tube. Here are a couple of shots that will give a pretty good comparison of the flowers of both species. First, Hexastylis heterophylla:
Next, Hexastylis minor:
Note the bulge in the corolla tube just below the flower opening. Also note that H. heterophylla shows white at the outside base of the flower and to the pedicel which connects the flower to the growth center of the plant. H. minor is uniformly colored.
Some descriptions state that the leaves of H. minor are more strongly variegated than in the other species, but I’ve seen H. heterophylla leaves that look quite the same as those of H. minor. So I would not use that as an exclusive determining characteristic.
We did find a few other wildflower species in bloom at this site. One of those is Trillium cuneatum or Little Sweet Betsy. It was scattered lower on the north-facing portion of the hillside near a small creek. Here are some shots of these flowers:
There were also a numerous winter leaves of the summer-blooming orchid, Tipularia discolor or Crane-fly orchid nearby looking a bit worse for wear. This is a common, terrestrial orchid, and it can be found on almost any rich, wooded hillside in the upstate of South Carolina:
It was a great trip, and it was only an hour or so from home. That’s always a good thing. Again, I really appreciate the location information that Chick gave us. Often times, directions are rather vague, and one spends a lot of time looking around for the exact place to find the species. That was definitely not the case for us.
Alan and I headed to another couple of sites after we left the Little Heartleaf site but, to me, this was the highlight of the day. It’s very satisfying to go out into the field and discover wonderful wildflower species to photograph — especially one that is new to the photographer. The weather was overcast (good for photography) and the rain held out until we got back to Greenville. Could not ask for more.
Stay tuned for further wildflower reports. Even though winter seems not to want to release its hold on the season, Spring is knocking on the door…
I managed to photograph a possible pollinator, Urbanus proteus or Long-tailed Skipper, which for some reason, was missing its long tail… Note how the Skipper begins nectaring on the lower flowers and works its way up the stem. With Spiranthes species, the flower’s reproductive parts mature at different stages, thereby helping to prevent self-pollination and to assure cross-pollination from other plants:
I used the term, “possible pollinator”, because I did not actually see any pollinia attached to its proboscis. In the past, I have also photographed Epargyreus clarus or Silver-spotted Skipper (below left) as well as Panoquina ocola or Ocola Skipper aka Long-winged Skipper (below right) nectaring on Ladies’-tresses orchids in the Carolina coastal plain:
A very interesting side note about Spiranthes pollination that I found in a Dutch publication about the pollination process in Spiranthes spiralis, a European Ladies’-tresses species:
“The lip of flowers that is a few day more matured has opened further making access to the nectar gland wider and making the tongue brush past the stigma and deliver the pollen. Such a flower which develops first to release the pollen, and is later adapted to be pollinated is called protandrous. In 52% of the plants the flowers are arranged counterclockwise, in 39% clockwise and in 9% of the plants the flowers are to one side of the inflorescence [secund]. The pollinators always land at bottom of the inflorescence and visit the flowers ever higher up. Most bumblebees have a strong preference for counterclockwise arrangement, fewer for clockwise. It seems that autumn lady’s tresses responds to this preference by offering different inflorescence types and thus increases the chances of fertilization.”
Wow! Who knew!?!
At this point in my search, I was deep in the swamp. In order to give Alex directions to this particular spot (he said he might want to visit the FMNF on his way back to Ohio), I wanted to indicate the proper entry point into the swamp by placing bright orange survey tape on the tree just at the edge of the swamp next to the gravel road. I did not have survey tape with me — it was in my truck. When I exited the swamp and reached the road, the truck was 100 yards (~100 meters) south of where I came out of the swamp. I placed the camera/tripod next to the road to mark that spot and walked back to the truck. I got into the truck, found the survey tape, and drove north to where I had placed the camera. I located a small tree to which I attached a liberal amount of survey tape and went back to the truck.
Not only did I need to mark the preferred entry point into the swamp, but I had to figure out how I would be able to give him explicit directions to the gravel road and how far to travel down the road before looking for the survey tape. I was obviously distracted by these thoughts running through my head.
I eventually made it to my motel destination in Shallotte, NC, which was about 20 minutes from the Green Swamp. It was about 5:30 pm, and daylight was beginning to fade. I checked in, got my room key and proceeded to unload my stuff from the truck. Here is where it becomes a bit difficult to tell the rest of the story and also where my initial Shakespeare quote assumes a clear meaning…
After unloading my suitcase, computer, and some other stuff, I went back to the truck for my camera gear. I was shocked to find that my camera and tripod were not in the truck!!! WTF!!! What had happened?!? The only thing I could figure out was that I had left the camera beside the road in the FMNF at the spot where I had marked my exit point out of the swamp. How could I have been so negligent? The only thing to do was to get into the truck and head back the 2.5 hours to the FMNF and hope that the camera was still where I had left it.
The trip back to the FMNF was fraught with recrimination and mentally beating myself up for such a stupid and thoughtless act. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but whenever something traumatic such as this happens, my thoughts are all over the map. I really don’t remember the drive back to the scene of the crime, but when I arrived, it was pitch black dark. I made my way carefully down the potholed gravel road to the exact spot where I wildly hoped that I would find my camera sitting there. This road is not widely traveled, but it is hunting season, and some of the hunters use this road to get around in the national forest.
I made it to the location, but did not see the camera… My heart was in my throat. Thousands of dollars worth of new equipment gone, and I alone was to blame. I looked all around the shoulder of the road and even in the shallow ditch just next to the road. I drove up and down the road, using my truck’s headlights to search the side of the road, but no camera… After about 30 minutes, I decided that it was time to head back to the motel, another 2.5 hours, where I could think more clearly about my next steps. Time for Plan B.
Upon arriving back at the motel, I asked the night clerk where the nearest big-box hardware store was. Fortunately, it was nearby, but it was so late that it was closed. Early the next morning, I went there and bought materials for making a lost-and-found sign which I could place at the spot where I had left the camera. I really didn’t know what else I could do that would help the situation. After purchasing the sign materials, I met Alex and Eric at the pond. We proceeded to find most of the species on Alex’s list. Around lunch time, I told the guys that I needed to head on back to the FMNF so that I could place the sign, hoping that the person who had found the camera would know where to return it. We said our goodbyes, and I headed west to the FMNF.
Upon arriving, I passed a number of hunter’s trucks which were parked along the same road where I had left the camera. I thought about asking if they had found the camera, but they were nowhere to be seen — probably in the woods hunting. I drove to the spot and placed the sign where it would be most likely to be seen. Here is a shot of that sign with my phone number digitally blurred:
Disheartened, I drove home. That was Sunday. On Monday morning, I called the Berkeley County sheriff’s office and the FMNF forest service office, opening case files at each place describing my lost items. As I expected, there had been no such things turned in. Around mid-morning, the phone rang, and the area code on the caller-id indicated that it was a caller from the coastal plain area of South Carolina. I was understandably excited and probably shaking when I answered the phone. The caller paused and asked if I was “the one who lost a camera”? My prayers were answered! I told him that I was the person who lost the camera, and we proceeded to have about a 10-minute conversation about items lost and hunters and the national forest and dogs and … Turns out, he just wanted to know who I was and how I had managed to lose a camera in the middle of nowhere. Even today, I’m still trying to figure out what that conversation was all about.
I got almost no sleep on Monday night. On Tuesday about lunch time, I got another call from that same part of the state. Again, I was excited and hopeful. After saying our “hellos”, the caller said in his unmistakable lowcountry South Carolina manner, “I think I have your camera.” Well, you could have knocked me over with that proverbial feather! We spent about 10 minutes on the phone — me identifying the camera and tripod, and him relating how he came across it along the road. Turns out that he found it no more than 30 minutes after I had left the scene. What luck it was that he found it and, rather than taking it to a pawn shop or keeping it himself, he wanted to return it to me. He had scanned the local Charleston newspaper in the lost-and-found section, but did not find what he was looking for. Being a farmer and a hunter, he had gone back to his farm to spread some corn around his deer stand and decided to drive back by where he had found the camera. He saw my sign and decided to call me on the spot. He gave me his home address, and we decided to meet on Wednesday around noon, since it was a 4-hour drive for me to get there.
I made it to his house, met him and his gracious wife, and spent the better part of an hour or so chewin’ the fat. His name is Marion Wright. He was a restaurateur in the little town of Wando and is now retired and a gentleman farmer. No finer people have I ever met. I tried to get him to take the $500 reward, but he refused. I finally got him to take $200 which he said he would give to charity. On my way back home to Greenville, I tried to process all that had transpired in the past few days. Marion’s honesty and humility has renewed my outlook on humanity. Why I doubted that someone like him would find and return my lost items, I don’t know. But some real good came out of what was a pretty bad situation. It was a win-win event for me. Although I had to travel 13 extra hours in search of the camera, I got my camera back and I hopefully have learned an important lesson. Although, that remains to be seen…
Until our next adventure,