Gardening and horticulture news and tips, as well as agricultural information from Amanda McNulty, the host of SCETV's "Making It Grow" and Clemson University Extension Agent. Produced by South Carolina Public Radio.Making It Grow Minutes are produced by South Carolina Public Radio, in partnership with Clemson University's Extension Service.
Eastern Tent Caterpillars Are Thriving in Beidler Forest - Which Means the Birds Are, Too
Beidler Forest Audubon Center’s manager Matt Johnson said this is red-letter year for the larvae of the Eastern Tent Caterpillar. They were everywhere, the boardwalk was covered in frass, the polite word for insect poop, they were even falling on us from the trees! Although they covered with seta, hair-like bristles that sometimes cause serious skin irritation, these caterpillars are harmless to touch. Among the one hundred forty birds that spend all of part of their life at Beidler, are the yellow cuckoos. They sit by the nests of these caterpillars and gleefully strip the bristles off, devouring up to one hundred at a time. When startled by loud noises, such as thunder, they make a croaking sound, giving rise to the nickname rain crows. They lay eggs over a relatively long period of time; often depositing them in the nests of other birds.
Walking the Boardwalk at the Beidler Forest
On our visit to the Beidler Forest manager Matt Johnson spotted five snakes – three water moccasins and two banded water snakes. To distinguish between them, see if the eyeball is round and therefore a non-venomous water snake rather than the moccasins’ slit-eyed pupil. But that means using binoculars or getting too close for safety!
The Audubon Francis Beidler Forest's Environmental Impact
Much of the Beidler Forest is a swamp – a flooded forest where the water level fluctuates rather dramatically, some areas may occasionally be completely dry. The water doesn’t come from streams or springs but from rainfall draining from the four hundred and thirty thousand acres watershed above Four Holes Swamp, of which Beidler is a part. Think of a swamp as a massive porous surface – rainwater can slowly infiltrate the soil and pollutants – fertilizers, motor oil from roadways, industrial waste, sewage -- are broken down by soil organisms into non-toxic substances. The water level fluctuates with rainfall but inexorably slowly flows across the land, from wetter to drier sites before ending in the Edisto River. After excess rainfall events, that slow passage mitigates flooding of that River and adds cleansed water for the backup supply of Charleston’s drinking water.
The Beginnings of Congaree National Park and the Francis Beidler Audubon Center
Our crew spent a glorious day filming at the Beidler Forest Audubon Center recently, the original portion of which was purchased from the Beidler family in the 1960’s. Francis Beidler was a Chicago businessman who with partner Benjamin Ferguson established the Santee Cypress Lumber Company in eighteen eighty one, purchasing one hundred sixty five thousand acres in central South Carolina. This company was extremely profitable as old growth cypress lumber was highly desirable for building. The timber operations and mills were usually near large “blackwater” creeks to facilitate moving the enormous., ancient cut logs. Sadly, for the country’s economy but ultimately fortunate for the ecosystem, a slump in business in 1915 prompted Mr. Beidler to shut down all his timbering for a time. Eventually, portions of his properties became the Congaree National Park and the Francis Beidler Audubon Center.
Callery Pears: A Thorny, Invasive Offspring
This offspring of the Bradford pear not only spreads like crazy, it also has treacherous thorns.
The Rampant Bradford Pear
It seemed like a good idea at the time...