Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Passion For Summer Camp

Today, summer campers at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest took their first tour of the 1.75-mile boardwalk through the old-growth, cypress-tupelo swamp. We're not sure if it was the lower water, the warm weather, the post-breeding season or just our poor luck, but our trip around the boardwalk yielded few wildlife encounters. We did flush a fawn from its bedding site within the Dwarf Palmettos (Sabal minor) near #12. It moved a dozen or so yards away from the boardwalk and settled behind a fallen tree.

While determining north using sticks and the sun along the Santee Cooper powerline right-of-way, we saw a beautiful purple flower growing in the open area. We, along with the campers, had never seen the flower before. After referring to Richard Porcher’s A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina, we got a better idea of why the flower was a mystery to us. The bloom generally shows for only three days.

According to Porcher, the plant is a Maypops or Passion-flower (Passiflora incarnata) and "the common name comes from the resemblance of the floral parts to the story of Christ’s Passion; the styles resemble nails; the 5 stamens, the wounds Jesus received; the purplish corona, the bloody crown; the 10 perianth parts, the 10 disciples (Peter and Judas being absent); the coiled tendrils, the whips for scourging; the pistil, the column where Christ was scourged; and the flower in the background of dull, green leaves represents Christ in the hands of His enemies. Interestingly, the flower’s life is generally three days."

The native vine (up to six feet long) either creeps along the ground or climbs and will bear fleshy, yellow fruit when ripe between July and October. See the similar species Passiflora lutea.

Images by Mark Musselman

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