Cedar Mountain, NC
Peachtree Rock Preserve, located in southern Lexington County near Swansea, South Carolina encompasses 305 acres of diverse ecosystems. The actual Peachtree Rock (pictured below with my friend Shuler for perspective) is a geologic wonder: it has stood for millions of years and is a natural testament to the ancient marine environment which was once here.
Within the boundaries of the preserve are many strikingly diverse sets of plant communities ranging from bogs to sandhill scrub. The area harbors the largest sandstone outcrops rich in marine fossils found in South Carolina, the only waterfall in the Coastal Plain, a swamp tupelo-evergreen shrub bog, and a longleaf pine ecosystem. Typical sandhill scrub vegetation, pines, turkey oaks and sparkleberry bushes are present in abundance on the preserve. The federally endangered Rayner's blueberry (Vaccinium sempervirens)is found growing on the seepage slope within the longleaf pine forest. Prescribed burning plays a major role in the continued survival of these habitats and species.
As the visitor descends towards the waterfall (pictured above with me for perspective), they can observe the more moisture-loving plants: titi, mountain laurel, and the crane-fly orchid. This orchid's leaves are visible during the winter and spring, then die back in the summer. The flowering spike, which is 4 to 20 inches tall, appears during September. Near the waterfall several fern communities can be observed, and maple-leafed viburnum (Viburnum acerfolium) grows in abundance here. On the seepage slopes sand myrtle, titi, and sweet pepper bush dominate. Two contrasting plant communities can be noted here: the shade and moisture-loving galax (or skunk weed), normally found only in cool mountain environments, and woody goldenrod, which normally grows on drier slopes. For more information, contact The South Carolina Nature Conservancy, P.O. Box 5475, Columbia, SC 29250. Telephone: (803) 254-9049
Directions: From Columbia, take Highway 215 (aka SC Highway 302) south past the airport toward Edmund. Travel on SC 302 until SC 6 veers off to the left towards Swansea. Follow SC 6 across the railroad overpass for 0.5 miles. Look for and follow signs off to the left to the Bethel United Methodist Church (2nd church sign). At the stop sign, turn right onto the dirt road and follow it briefly until the turnoff on the left which is a parking area among pine trees. Before leaving the car, make sure it is locked and all valuables inside are hidden from view, as the lot is secluded and unguarded. Two nature trails - 1/2 mile orange trail and 1.5 mile blue trail - provide access through the preserve.
All photos © Allen Easler.