WILD GEORGIA: Roadsides can be wildflower havens

Members of the Georgia Botanical Society explore a yellow pitcher plant bog along a highway in Clinch County during a Labor Day weekend "roadside botanizing" field trip. Charles Seabrook for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Members of the Georgia Botanical Society explore a yellow pitcher plant bog along a highway in Clinch County during a Labor Day weekend "roadside botanizing" field trip. Charles Seabrook for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Charles Seabrook

Credit: Charles Seabrook

Charles Seabrook’s “Wild Georgia” column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

It must have been an odd sight last weekend to a passing motorist — 10 mask-adorned, socially distanced adults under a hot sun, tromping around in a wild pitcher plant bog along a remote roadside in Clinch County deep in southeast Georgia.

I was one of the adults, all of us Georgia Botanical Society members. We were on one of the society’s few field trips of this year. Usually, two or three such treks are scheduled nearly every month during which we explore habitats all over Georgia for wildflowers and other flora. Most of this year’s trips, however, were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For me, it was good to be in the field again with friends who share a passion for Georgia’s native plants. The society’s “pandemic-related” rules stipulate that we practice COVID-19 prevention guidelines in the field and limit trip participation to 10 people. Carpooling also has been temporarily suspended.

Last weekend’s trip leader, Rich Reaves, one of Georgia’s leading field botanists, billed the two-day trek as a “roadside botanizing” outing in which we would explore late summer flora along some highways in Ware, Brantley and Clinch counties.

As Rich noted, sunny roadsides and their water-filled ditches can provide excellent habitat for numerous native plants — although they sometimes face wipeout from roadside mowing and maintenance.

Several “significant botanical finds” in Georgia have been made over the years from roadside botanizing, Rich said.

In our six-car caravan, we followed Rich and his wife Anita on the highways, using extra caution to safely pull off when Rich spied some interesting wildflowers. One of the most beautiful flowers was the pine lily along a Brantley County road. But the most significant find was at another pull-off when Heather Brasell in our group called Rich’s attention to a greenish yellow flower — the uncommon savanna milkweed.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen it,” an elated Rich said. “Just goes to show you can always find something new.”

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will be new on Thursday. Mercury is low in the west at dusk. Venus rises in the east about two hours before dawn and will appear near the moon on Monday. Mars rises in the east at dusk. Jupiter and Saturn are high in the southeast after dark.