Broxton Rocks Preserve in South Georgia is a geologic wonder

One of my favorite natural areas in Georgia is Broxton Rocks Preserve in Coffee County, deep in South Georgia. It’s an unlikely place of rugged, mountain-like sandstone rock formations and a scenic, 10-foot-high waterfall amid a beautiful longleaf pine forest on the otherwise flat coastal plain.

Its boulders, cave-like crevices, deep fissures, steep cliffs and other elements make it unique — home to more than 530 plant species, several of which are rare and endangered and many that aren’t normally found in the coastal plain.

The 1,650-acre preserve, part of the much larger Broxton Rocks Conservation Area, is owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy of Georgia; public access is restricted to protect the flora and fauna. But, last weekend, I had a chance to stroll through the preserve with the person who knows it best, noted naturalist Frankie Snow, who lives in nearby Douglas and is a longtime professor at South Georgia State College. During our walk, I scribbled notes from his running commentary:

"The flowing water of Rocky Creek, an Ocmulgee River tributary, and weathering carved out the rock formations and unusual habitats. … Frankie points out green-fly orchids clinging to the cool, shady rock walls; normally, they grow on trees. … In a wet area we spy the purple blooms of dense blazing star (Liatris spicata). When you see this plant, Frankie says, pitcher plants usually are nearby. … Sure enough, we find clumps of bright green hooded pitcher plants. …

“A riot of color is everywhere — blooming goldenrods, asters, blazing stars, sunflowers, false foxgloves, etc. … Frankie says ‘prescribed burning’ helps the wildflowers thrive and keeps the longleaf pine forest healthy. … We negotiate around some jagged rocks to see a very rare fern, the shoestring fern, usually found only in the tropics … we find it growing in crevices under a rock overhang. … In a sunny spot, Frankie shows me ‘grease grass,’ whose stem has a thin, oily film.”

In the sky: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will be full Tuesday — the Hunter's Moon. Mercury is low in the east just before sunrise. Brightly shining Venus rises out of the east about three hours before sunrise. Mars and Jupiter (low in the sky) rise out of the east about two hours before sunrise. Jupiter and Venus will appear close together Monday morning. Saturn is low in the southwest at dusk and sets about two hours later.