National Wildflower Week Day 2: Off to the Sandhills Region with Bruce A. Sorrie

It’s the second day of National Wildflower Week, and today’s featured book is A Field Guide to Wildflowers of the Sandhills Region: North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, written by Bruce A. Sorrie, botanist for the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program. Another one of our new Southern Gateways Guides, this book looks at the diverse plant communities native to areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, and even Georgia. The guide is organized by habitat, and features over 500 handy color images that will help you identify these gorgeous flowers and plants along that nature hike I know you’re itching to take now that summer is around the corner.  The following excerpt explains the scope of the guide and the geographic area it covers.

This book is the first field guide to treat the plants of the fascinating and biodiverse area in the southeastern United States known as the sandhills region. This guide describes most of the native wildflowers, shrubs, and vines that occur in each of nine distinct natural communities or habitats in this area. While the emphasis is clearly on native plants, many nonnative plants are included as well, since they are familiar roadside species we commonly think of as weeds. Because of its broad scope and coverage, the guide will be useful to a wide audience, from beginning naturalists to professional biologists, foresters, and land managers. It is my sincere hope that the guide will instill in people a deep interest in and appreciation for the plants that grace this region and, perhaps more importantly, spark a desire to protect some of the natural areas in which they grow.

Among the significant features that set the Sandhills region apart are its rolling hills, generally poor sandy soil, and abundance of creeks and small rivers. These are obvious to people who live here, visit as tourists, or pass through on a journey elsewhere. Also notable is the region’s longleaf pine ecosystem. Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) was historically the most valuable timber tree of this region (see below) and continues to produce significant wood products and pinestraw. Beneath the Longleaf grow various oaks and a ground cover of Wiregrass (Aristida stricta), augmented by a great diversity of plants and animals that make their home in the longleaf pine ecosystem. The Sandhills populations of the federally endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis) are among the largest in the nation; there are more populations of the federally endangered Michaux’s Sumac (Rhus michauxii) in this region than anywhere else. While some plants are well-known, such as Wild Azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides), Swamp Azalea (R. viscosum) with its highly fragrant flowers, and Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), others are not, such as the spectacular blue flowers of Autumn Gentian (Gentiana autumnalis). These and hundreds of other wildflowers are included in this guide.

The Sandhills Region

This field guide covers a geologic and physiographic region known as the Sandhills, the innermost portion of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. The Sandhills
region extends unbroken from central North Carolina through South Carolina to east-central Georgia, then as scattered pieces to west-central Georgia. Notable Sandhills cities include Fayetteville, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; and Augusta, Macon, and Columbus, Ga. But if you live in or visit many of the largest metropolitan areas of the southeastern Piedmont or coast—Atlanta, Ga.; Charleston, S.C.; or Charlotte or Raleigh-Durham, N.C.—you are a just a short distance from the Sandhills.

Check out Sorrie’s author page to learn more and see when he’ll be speaking at several events around the Triangle area in the coming weeks.

Excerpt from A Field Guide to Wildflowers of the Sandhills Region: North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia Copyright © 2011 by Bruce A. Sorrie.