A Walk in the Swamp
[guest blog post by intern Mitchell Vaughan]
On Friday, May 23, I accompanied Kaul Wildflower Curator John Manion and my two fellow interns on a visit to the University of Montevallo’s Ebenezer Swamp Ecological Preserve on Spring Creek in Shelby County. The Swamp is a 60 acre tract of natural wetland, located near the University of Montevallo campus and used by the university for education and research. It’s part of the Cahaba River Watershed, which brings us to an interesting distinction: that between a swamp and a bog. Swamps form in the basins and floodplains surrounding rivers, where river water flows into lower, shallower areas and eventually flows back into another river system. Bogs are raised areas of stagnant water, which accumulate from precipitation and are held by the high peat content of the surrounding soil. Unlike swamps, true bogs seldom have regular inflow or drainage. Swamps also differ from bogs in that they are able to support large hardwood species. Some of the dominant species in Ebenezer Swamp are Nyssa aquatica (water tupelo), Acer rubrum (red maple), Magnolia virginiana (sweet bay magnolia) and Platanus occidentalis (sycamore). Numerous other interesting plant species also occur there, some rare and some endangered.
Traversing the swamp is possible on a boardwalk, built and maintained by the university, which meanders gently across the length of the swamp. Walking along, I sensed the primordial nature of the place, from it having existed undisturbed for centuries before human encroachment. The swamp once came under threat when plans were made to drain the area to make way for a quarry. Fortunately, through legal action by the university, that plan was cancelled. Macknally Land Design subsequently created the master plan for the development of the swamp.
Ebenezer Swamp must be experienced in person if its beauty and serenity are to be fully appreciated. For some, the word “swamp” conjures images of murky, tannin-stained mires, but the sight of the bright dappled light in Ebenezer Swamp couldn’t be further from this. The waters teem with fish, mussels, and crayfish, all readily visible from the comfort of the boardwalk. Visitors are able to observe up-close, an array of lush plant life. Alabama residents, owe it to themselves to visit this natural state wonder at least once, probably to return again and again… as I will.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens hires new Special Events Coordinator
Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens is pleased to announce the hiring of new Special Events Coordinator, Ragan Cox.
Ragan comes to The Gardens from Sight Savers America, where she was a KidCheck Plus Program Coordinator, planning nearly one hundred events each year. A graduate of Auburn University, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, she also worked as an Auburn Special Events Assistant, planning and facilitating events for the University President, First Lady and Board of Trustees.
Ragan was born and raised in Birmingham and “some of my fondest childhood memories are of visiting The Gardens with my grandmother, a Master Gardener,” she stated.
“We are thrilled to welcome Ragan and have her on board as we continue an exciting year of events celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Gardens,” said Jean Frey, Director of Development.
For Thursday’s Natural Beauty class, two mother-daughter groups joined Elinor and Winfield Burks, Linda Norred and her mother Jane Salsbury and Teresa Roberts and her mother Betty Carraway, who was in town from Louisiana. Linda visited The Gardens last year and knew it would be the perfect place to visit with her mom, aunt and cousin on their all girls Mother’s Day trip to Birmingham.
Avondale School visits The Gardens
On May 6, 3rd grade students at Avondale School visited The Gardens to take part in Discovery Field Trips. Mr. and Mrs. William “Bill” Barnes provided a picnic lunch for the group. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes have adopted classes at Avondale School, and each year, they welcome their students, teachers and parents for a complimentary lunch at The Gardens following their visit for Discovery Field Trips.
Mr. Barnes talked to the students about the rewards that can come from hard work in school years, and the lunch was to reward students for a year of accomplishments and to encourage them to give their best to their future education. In addition, he congratulated the teachers and principal, Dr. Ann Curry, for their leadership.
Executive Director and CEO Fred Spicer encouraged students to study hard in science and math to lead them to promising careers in upcoming science and technology fields.
Education Activities Specialist Dawn Coleman, Donor Relations Officer Drew Rickel and Education Program Coordinator Ellen Hardy also showed their support from The Gardens.
Rotary Club of Birmingham’s Margaret Debardeleben congratulated students and teachers on their new playground which was recently made possible by Rotary Club of Birmingham.
Earth Day at The Gardens 2014
Community Garden Coalition for Birmingham and Birmingham Botanical Gardens again partnered to bring Alabama’s longest-running Earth Day celebration to Alabama’s largest living museum on April 26. Several vendors and exhibits were on display in the Formal Garden in front of the newly renovated Conservatory.
Salsa de Mayo returns to The Gardens
Salsa de Mayo returned on May 1, as Chef Lori Sours demonstrated recipes for her Salsa Senorita line of salsa to Junior Board of Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
Smith Middle School visits The Gardens
Smith Middle School is the latest to take part in The Gardens’ Plants: Inside Out! Discovery Field Trips program for middle schools students. Seventh graders from Ms. Henderson’s science class and Ms. Giles’s reading class visited The Gardens this week to explore.
To learn how your class can take advantage of our FREE, curriculum-based science education programs, visit The Gardens online.
Kaul Wildflower Garden Spring 2014 donor tour
Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion led a group of Birmingham Botanical Gardens donors on an exclusive tour on Wednesday. Executive Director & CEO Fred Spicer joined the group as they explored the unique blooms in one of the most unique gardens at Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
Lunch and Learn: Eat Your Yard
The free Lunch and Learn series continued on Wednesday, as William Randle led participants in “Eat Your Yard,” a look at how to incorporate fruits, vegetables and herbs into existing landscapes. The series will continue on April 9 as Cameron Strouss leads “Medicinal Gardening.” Each Lunch and Learn takes place from 11:30 – 12:30 p.m. at The Gardens, and participants are encouraged to bring a lunch to enjoy while the lecture is ongoing. Desserts and drinks are provided, and each session is free.
Lunch and Learn: Trees and Shrubs
The free Lunch and Learn series returned on March 26, as Mike Rushing led participants in “Trees and Shrubs,” a look at how planting in the right place at the right time makes all the difference. The series will continue on April 9 as Cameron Strouss leads “Medicinal Gardening.” Each Lunch and Learn takes place from 11:30 – 12:30 p.m. at The Gardens, and participants are encouraged to bring a lunch to enjoy while the lecture is ongoing. Desserts and drinks are provided, and each session is free.