With its thousands of native plant and animal species, Georgia ranks sixth-highest among the states in biological richness, according to the Nature Conservancy. In great part, this amazing diversity is due to more than 100 different natural habitats — from secluded mountain coves to sun-drenched coastal salt marshes — within the state.
As any high school biology student learns (or should learn), a habitat is the place or natural area where a plant or animal normally lives. Many plants and animals occur only in specific habitats, such as oysters in salt marshes.
Last weekend, several of us Georgia Botanical Society members visited one of the state’s rarest habitats — a “low mountain seepage bog” on the shores of Lake Chatuge near Hiawassee in Towns County. The bog harbors one of the state’s rarest plant species, the bug-eating (carnivorous) green pitcherplant.
In fact, the bog, known as Reed Branch Wet Meadow, is the last habitat of its kind in Georgia. Also, its more than 1,400 green pitcherplants are Georgia’s only natural population of the endangered species.
To protect the plants, the Nature Conservancy manages the five-acre site and limits visitation only to special guided group tours. During our visit there, our leader, Hal Massie, warned us to walk single file on a narrow path to avoid trampling the plants.
The bog is characterized by a shallow layer of acidic soil covering the bedrock. Water seeps out of the ground and saturates the soil, creating favorable conditions for the green pitcherplants.
Many other plants also find the soggy site to their liking. In addition to hosting the pitcherplants, the Reed Branch bog also is unique because it is home to a large number of plant species typical of the Coastal Plains — like sundews, colicroot and meadow-beauties — that are usually not found in North Georgia. Other plants that we saw in bloom there included self-heal, nodding ladies’ tresses (a native orchid), swamp milkweed, butterfly bush, prairie blueheart, buttonbush, sneezeweed, swamp rose and others.
For more on Georgia’s natural habitats, visit: naturalhistory.uga.edu/~GMNH/habitats/habitats.htm.
IN THE SKY: The South Delta Aquarid, visible Saturday night through Wednesday night, will peak at about 15 meteors per hour this weekend, said David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer. Look to the southeast from midnight until dawn.
The moon will be last quarter on Monday. Mercury is low in the east just before dawn. Venus is low in the west at dusk and sets about two hours later. Mars and Jupiter are in the east just before sunrise. Saturn is high in the west at dusk and sets around midnight.
About the Author