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.