Posts Tagged ‘John Manion’

Glade Hopping in Bibb County

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Glade Hopping in Bibb County

by: Hunter McBrayer

I recently had the opportunity to botanize at the Bibb County Glades in Bibb County, Alabama, with a small group of plant enthusiasts from The Gardens.  We rendezvoused with Tom Diggs, a doctoral student at The University of Alabama at Birmingham studying evolutionary biology.  Tom’s research is on the unique array of plants growing at The Glades and the reasons so many of them are endemic to the area. 

The Bibb County Glades are truly a remarkable anomaly in the Alabama landscape.  Largely ignored by humans until 1992, the glades were considered a treeless barren by most people of that region until Jim Allison, a botanist from Georgia, explored the area.  He noticed that several familiar looking plants, upon closer inspection, were unknown species.  He continued exploring the area and eventually discovered eight new species of plants; a rare occurrence in today’s world of plant exploration.  

Many factors contribute to the fact that the area holds so many endemic plants, but most scientists agree that the primary reason for such a high degree of endemism is the unique substrate on which they grow. Ketona limestone, a very specific type of dolomitic limestone, is the primary geological formation underlying The Glades’ very thin soil; the type of limestone contains very high levels of magnesium.  In addition to the preceding factor, arid climate has contributed to the unique evolution of plants that thrive there. One third of Alabama’s twenty-four endemic plant species are found growing at The Glades, which collectively comprise approximately 250 acres.  

Although some of these plants were already past flowering, we still had the opportunity to view several of them in flower.  This list includes Coreopsis grandiflora var. inclinata, reclining large-flowered tickseed; Dalea cahaba, Cahaba prairie clover; Croton alabamensis var. alabamensis, Alabama croton (a somewhat ubiquitous plants The Gardens); and Spigelia alabamensis (syn. Spigelia gentianoides var. alabamensis,  gentian pinkroot. We were also able to examine a population of a new species in the genus Trautvetteria, tassel-rue, which as of yet has not been assigned a name; at present, it is being referred to as Trautvetteria species 1. 

Due to the unique character of this area and its rare flora, conservation is of upmost importance.  To that end, The Nature Conservancy has acquired 480 acres and named it the Kathy Stiles Freeland Bibb County Glades Preserve.  The Preserve is located along a very picturesque section of the Little Cahaba River and makes a delightful day trip; when there take time to appreciate Alabama’s unique natural heritage.

Spigillia gentianoides var. alabamensis

Croton alabamensis, Alabama croton

Trautvetteria species 1

Botanical Bonanza at the Talladega National Forest

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Photographing Phlox sp. and Rudbeckia sp.

Botanical Bonanza at the Talladega National Forest

by: Hunter McBrayer

I was recently invited to visit the Oakmulgee District of the Talladega National Forest on a botanizing trip with Birmingham Botanical Gardens Executive Director Fred Spicer and Kaul Wildflower Garden curator John Manion. Being a plant nerd, I jump at any opportunity to join two knowledgeabe plantsmen whenever invited.  

The Oakmulgee District is an expanse of land spanning 157,544 acres from Southeast Tuscaloosa County to Northeast Dallas County, Alabama.  Within this region there is a high degree of biodiversity, and it is predominantly covered in large savannas of Pinus palustris, longleaf pine.  The area is managed by the United States Forestry Service, who utilizes frequent prescribed burns to control encroachment of non-native invasive plant species, and to create the ideal habitat for proper growth and development of longleaf pine.  The Oakmulgee District is public land that can be used for hiking, hunting, bird watching and other forms of recreation.  

Although the area is abundent with longleaf pines, there are numerous fascinating micro-ecotones, transition areas between habitats.  These transition areas provide rich habitat for countless species of plants and animals, most of which are native to Alabama and the Southeast United States.  Among these are the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker,  Picoides borealis (a species associated with longleaf pine); a host of orchids,  and five different species of magnolia, including the less-than-common Magnolia acuminata, cucumber magnolia, and Magnolia pyramidata, pyramid magnolia. 

While there we explored a large, active beaver pond that showcased many aquatic plants, including Peltandra virginica, green arrow arum, Nuphar advena (syn. N. lutea), spatterdock, Nymphaea odorata, white water lily, Utricularia cornuta, horned bladderwort, as well as numerous species of Carax, sedges. 

Aside from providing a plethora of native plants and animals, the region possesses abundent areas of interest for nature lovers and photographers.   This was not the first time I had the opportunity to visit this area, and surely it will not be the last.

Examining Utricularia cornuta,horned bladderwort

Pinus palustris, longleaf pine

Platanthera ciliaris, yellow fringed orchid

Brown Bag: Lunch and Learn

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Brown Bag: Lunch and Learn

The Gardens Lunch and Learn series continues to grow! The second seminar in this FREE series welcomed even more people to the Hodges Room. Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion led a discussion titled “Using native plants in your landscape garden design.” The free series will continue throughout the summer, continuing on July 11 with “Collecting rainwater for reuse in your landscape and inside your home” with Jefferson County Extension Agent Sallie Lee of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Scott Kubiszyn of Nature’s Tap. All Lunch and Learn seminars are 11:30 – 12:30 p.m. Drinks and dessert are provided. To learn about all of the Brown Bag: Lunch and Learn opportunities this summer, visit www.bbgardens.org/classes.  Join us!

To learn more about the Certificate in Native Plant Studies Program, which has just completed its first full year, and how you can participate, visit www.bbgardens.org/plantstudies.

Bog Trotting in Alabama

Monday, June 18th, 2012

  

Bog Trotting in Alabama

Hunter McBrayer, Rotary Club of Shades Valley 2012 Intern 

Within a few days of beginning my Rotary Club of Shades Valley summer internship with the Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, I had the pleasure of being invited to accompany Fred Spicer, Executive Director, and John Manion, Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator, at the biannual meeting of Alabama Plant Conservation Alliance (APCA) in Spanish Fort, Alabama. This is an organization with whom The Gardens has been involved since APCA was formed in 2009. 

As a recent graduate of The University of Alabama with a degree in Biology, and my primary interest being the conservation of Alabama’s native flora and its habitats, I was thrilled for the opportunity to attend this event and meet several people involved in plant conservation. Knowing that the trip would involve an exploration of one of our state’s unique treasures, Splinter Hill Bog, I was especially excited. 

Alabama, partly due to its varied physiography, is the fifth most biodiverse state in the US. We have a high rate of endemism, that is – the number of species that are found naturally occurring only in our state. There are 24 plants endemic to Alabama, several of which I’ve been able to observe and study. 

Splinter Hill Bog, a 2,100 acre tract of land near Perdido in Baldwin County, AL, is one of our states many distinct properties managed by The Nature Conservancy. 

In addition to is diverse habitats and populations of several fascinating plants, Splinter Hill Bog is perhaps most known as possibly the largest population globally of pitcher plants, the insectiverous (insect-eating) plants in the genus Sarracenia. In addition to wild orchids and other species of insectiverous plants growing there, the most abundant and visually striking of these is Sarracenia leuocophylla, the white-topped pitcher plant. (shown below)

Being predominantly a longleaf pine ecosystem, one of the important ways The Nature Conservancy manages this property is the use of prescribed burns to remove encroaching competitive plants…something that would have occurred naturally in times past.  

This outing was one of the most fascinating and eye-opening experiences in which I’ve had the pleasure to participate.

What’s in bloom at The Gardens? 4.9.12

Monday, April 9th, 2012

What’s in Bloom at The Gardens? 4.9.12

As Spring continues to bloom at The Gardens, the Kaul Wildflower Garden continues to be a gorgeous spot. Above, Kalmia latifolia blooms. Below are many more of the things that can be seen around The Gardens today.

Chionanthus virginicus

Erigeron sp.

Aquilegia sp.

Phlox divaricata

Rhododendron austrinum

Rudbeckia sp.

What’s in Bloom at The Gardens? 3.8.12

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

What’s in Bloom at The Gardens? 3.8.12

We’re already beginning to see beautiful signs of Spring at The Gardens. The above photo is Magnolia ‘Butterflies,’ taken just this week. Below are more of the gorgeous things you can see around the Kaul Wildflower Garden and beyond.

Aquilegia canadensis

Cardamine bulbosa

Cliftonia monophylla

Crowton alabamensis

Erythronium americanum

Osmunda regalis

Sanguinaria canadensis

Thalictrum thalictroides

Tradescantia sp.

Trillium sp.

Zizia Aurea

Volunteers in the Kaul Wildflower Gardens – 2.23.12

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

A group of more than a dozen volunteers joined John Manion in the Kaul Wilfdlower Garden this morning.

Trillium Treasures

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Pictured: Trillium flexipes

Trilliums normally take from five to eight years to flower when propagated from seed, thus few nurseries carry them, and when they are sold, they are frequently prohibitively expensive. If you ever find flowering-size trilliums that are not pricey, question if they were dug from the wild, something we strongly discourage.

We recently have had the rare opportunity to connect with a person who has been growing trilliums from seed for 20 years and does not sell them until they reach flowering size.  They are sold in special tube pots that are nearly a gallon and the plants, when leafed out, are about a foot tall and eight to ten inches wide.

We will be selling these plants at our Spring Plant Sale, but decided to take pre-orders so that more people will be able to grow this iconic spring wildflower. The four species available, all of which do well in Alabama, are (click on photos to enlarge):

  • Trillium cuneatum, sweet Betsy, purple toadshade

  • Trillium luteum, yellow wakerobin, lemon trillium

  • Trillium sulcatum, southern red trillium, furrowed wakerobin

  • Trillium flexipes, nodding trillium, bent trillium

The price for these treasures is $15 per pot, and for a preorder we need a minimum order of five plants. If you prefer to purchase single plants, we will have them at the Spring Plant Sale, while they last. Included with each order will be complete planting and cultural information.

If interested please go to this page, print it out, fill in the appropriate spaces and return it to Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens by mail or in person We must have your order in hand by no later than February 20, along with your payment (no cash, please). Plants will be available for pickup beginning March 1. Should our source run low, we will fill orders in the order they are received.

Note: A well-known, popular specialty nursery is selling these same plants for $22-$26, plus shipping!

Questions? Please contact: John Manion, Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator at jmanion@bbgardens.org

Kaul Wildflower Garden – Bog Update 1.12.12

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Today, volunteers gatherd in the Kaul Wildflower Garden where John Manion has led the installation of a new bog for the past couple of months. Now that preparation is complete, planting begins!

New Display in Archives and Rare Book Room

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Here are images of a fascinating display mounted by Jason Kirby, whom oversees our Archives and Rare Book Room in The Library at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This was on display during our recent Central South Native Plant Conference and illustrated the history of plant collecting. Some of the items displayed included: some rare early florae (books listing all the plants in a given area), press boards (used to press and dry specimens), vascular (tin containers in which to carry live specimens), old herbarium voucher specimens (pressed dried plants kept long-term), and a old lithograph of Karl Linnaeus – “the father of modern taxonomy.” Jason even included a modern microscope through which visitors could examine some of the old pressed specimens.