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