Clemson Botanical Gardens

Since Greenville was in the northwest corner of South Caroline, the remnants of Hurricane Ian did not strike hard. During our museum day, most of the day was very windy but not horrible. The rains did not come until late afternoon and overnight. Perfect! Everything was bright and sunny by Saturday, October 1st. It was such a beautiful day, we decided to make our way to the Clemson Botanical Gardens. It was an excellent choice!

As we approached Clemson University, we saw hundreds of cars parked in the university lots and grassy areas; all in preparation for the big game that was on that evening. The parking lot for the visitor’s center of the Botanical Gardens, however, was absolutely empty. It appeared that we would have the entire place to ourselves.

Behind the visitor’s center, there was a lovely little garden with black-eyed Susans still holding on at the end of the season. Along the brick wall, there were benches inviting visitors to sit and stay awhile. At this point, since the gardens were so large, we decided to concentrate on the Natural Heritage Garden trail, but first, we passed through the Jurassic and Desert gardens near the visitor’s center. The Jurassic Garden contained typical large leaved plants that we have all seen in pictures, so we covered this area pretty quickly. We did spend more time in the Desert Garden trying to identify some of the plants, particularly this purple Leavenworth’s Eryngo.

Finished with our explorations of these gardens, we crossed the street to the Natural Heritage Garden Trail. This path ran down the center of the Botanical Garden and consisted of 11 South Carolina ecosystems through time, featuring plants that were native to the area.  Along our walk, there were informative signs describing the geological history and the various plants of that system.

Our journey began with the Coastal Shell Ring, complete with examples of shell middens, and the Longleaf Pine Savanna. What surprised us in the savanna were the pine trees. Having grown up near Pine Barrens near the ocean, I was used to the scrubby short-needled trees growing near the sea. Here, the needles of these pines were at least 12 inches long!

We also spent a great deal of time in the Carnivorous Plant habitat. I believe we found at least 3 different types of Pitcher plants, including the Green Pitcher Plant shown here. It is not exactly green here, but perhaps it was the end of the season. According to the Clemson website, there were over 25 species of carnivorous plants native to the Carolinas. Following this section, we found ourselves entering the Piedmont, which was described as consisting of granite. Having come from Maine where we see huge granite boulders and ledges every day, we found the granite outcrops exhibited in this area “cute”.

The remainder of the habitats were located in the forests. Although there were a variety of trails we could have explored here, we stayed on the Heritage Trail and continued to work our way through the descriptions of the habitats. The forested area was very pretty and well maintained. Eventually, we finished up at the Hunt Cabin. While my husband read about the history of this cabin, I studied a series of small waterfalls nearby. There was still so much to see, but we decided to return to the visitor’s center and leave Clemson before the big game was underway. The Botanical Gardens would definitely be on our list for a return visit.

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