Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is the time of year for turkeys to lay low and decline ALL dinner invitations. Like the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) seen in the image exiting our parking area, this blog will be absent during the holiday period.

Image by Mark Musselman

Dodging dinner invitations has been sound turkey advice for centuries. Around 1519, Spaniards with Cortez saw the turkey domesticated by the Aztecs and brought the bird back to the Old World. English merchants trading in the Mediterranean region during the 1530s called the bird a Turkey-bird or Turkey-cock after the trading partners whom they called "Turkish merchants." This exotic bird was a hit back in England. Colonists arriving in Plymouth in 1620 were likely surprised to see wild versions of their domesticated turkeys roaming the countryside. Today, the flightless, domestic turkey, which would draw a steroid investigation were it a professional athlete, bares little resemblance to its wild cousin. Fine with us...please pass the cranberry sauce.

Tomorrow is about giving thanks for both individual and collective gifts. Naturally, we are thankful for the old-growth Francis Beidler Forest, all of its inhabitants, and the freedom to enjoy its wonder and beauty. As freedom has never been free, we are also thankful to all the men and women, civilian and military, whose service affords us the opportunity to enjoy these special places in peace. In that vein, our eyes were drawn to the familiar scene in the advertisement below, but we appreciated the clever copy and its underlying message even more.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Christmas Bird Count in Four Holes Swamp

On December 15th, Audubon South Carolina will be conducting the first ever Four Holes Swamp Christmas Bird Count. The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a long-standing program of the National Audubon Society that began more than 100 years ago as method of monitoring winter bird populations throughout North America. Each year thousands of volunteers across the US, Canada and 19 countries in the Western Hemisphere participate in the CBC.

To conduct a count, CBC volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile (24-km) diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a species tally—all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day. All individual CBC’s are conducted in the period from December 14 to January 5 each season, and each count is conducted in one calendar day. You can find a description of last year's Charleston Christmas Bird Count here.

The Four Holes Swamp CBC will encompass most of the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Sanctuary, Brosnan Forest, and neighboring lands (see the map). Anyone is welcome to participate in the count, since we will organize the groups so that inexperienced observers are always out with seasoned CBC veterans. We'll likely meet a the nature center at 7:30 am to begin and again at 5:00 pm to wrap up the day with some refreshments.

You will receive bonus points for spotting any of the birds shown in the print from John James Audubon's Birds of America. Check here before you alert the media.

If you are interested in participating in the count, please contact our Director of Bird Conservation, Jeff Mollenhauer at 843-462-2150.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Random Thoughts

The third graders from Williams Memorial Elementary School in St. George paid a visit to the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center. They were a super group, especially given the cool, breezy weather and the derth of visible wildlife! One group saw some White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), but that was it beyond a squawking American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) or the occasional woodpecker. Everything else was smarter than a third grader (or the adult guides) and remained hunkered down somewhere warm!

Once off the boardwalk, the outdoors experience continued with lunch at the picnic tables and the Fill the Bill (bird bill adaptation activity) in the outdoor classroom. Yesterday's burn of the Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) stands (see previous entries) at Mallard Lake and the Kitchens tract would have been welcome warmth after today's cool walk.

Images (burn) by Mark Musselman

The weekend is rapidly approaching, so we're thinking about flying out of here. The image below came to us without credit, but it sums up our feelings and demonstrates the Red-winged Blackbird's (Agelaius phoeniceus) adaptation to the energy crisis. We're not sure how the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) feels about it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Many channels on the television could disappear without notice, but there would be some letters to editors and cable company executives if the History Channel was pulled from the air! Besides making us formidable Trivia Pursuit players and Cliff Clavin-like dinner guests, the History Channel keeps us up-to-date on technologies that help maintain a healthier environment in which we live. As part of the National Audubon Society's climate change initiative, the staff of Audubon South Carolina will continue to share what we have learned regarding these new technologies.

Previously in this blog, we noted the technology that allows one to flip one switch and cut power to multiple electrical outlets that feed appliances unnecessarily in your absence. Last week, we learned about IdleAire, which was formed to reduce diesel truck engine idling during federally-mandated driver downtime.

Unlike RV campgrounds, most rest areas and truck stops do not offer a convenient method for truckers to obtain electricity to run their heater/AC or devices like laptop computers. Therefore, drivers obtain power by allowing their truck engines to idle. Idling the engine consumes approximately one gallon of diesel fuel per hour (1 gal/hr) and results in poor rest for the driver (vibrations/noise in the cab), consumes fuel while moving no product, reduces engine life, requires additional engine maintenance, and pollutes the air. An alternative is an onboard electric generator that uses 75% less diesel fuel. Although the current drop in fuel prices makes the cost per hour nearly equal for the IdleAire system and a generator, a generator adds weight to the truck, may produce the same noise/vibration issues, and does not provide Internet or entertainment (phone, tv, movies) access. Pollution comparisons depend on the source of electric power at the facility using the IdleAire system. The upfront cost of a generator is considerably more than the $10 required for the IdleAire window adapter.

"ATA's American Trucking Trends 2007-2008 reports that the trucking industry hauled 69 percent of the total volume of freight transported in the United States in 2006. This equates to an all-time high carrying load of 10.7 billion tons, and $645.6 billion in revenue, representing 83.8 percent of the nation's freight bill." (Reuters Business Wire)

American Trucking Trends reported that there were 2.9 million Class 8 trucks operated by more than 750,000 interstate motor carriers. Class 8 trucks drove 130.5 billion miles for business purposes in 2005. The nation's truck fleet (all classes) consumed 52.8 billion gallons of fuel, both diesel and gasoline and spent about $111 billion on diesel fuel in 2007 (Reuters Business Wire). Using a conservative number of 1 million Class 8 trucks (the semi-truck seen on the interstate highways) idling for six hours a day (half of the required rest time) would burn 6 million gallons of diesel per day! Remember, these trucks are idling without moving their load.

Although a system like IdleAire might not be the solution to our energy, pollution or climate change issues, it makes sense to implement anything that significantly improves an industry as large and as critical as the trucking industry.

Images from IdleAire

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Damming Beavers!

According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) webpage, The beaver, the largest rodent found in North America, was once abundant in South Carolina, and was found commonly in all areas with the exception of a narrow strip of sandy soil along the coast. These animals were trapped extensively by early trappers and by the late 1800s or early 1900s had disappeared from most of the state. Many feel the beaver was eradicated; however, some remnant populations may have persisted in remote areas.

During the winter of 1940 to 1941, United States Fish and Wildlife Service personnel released six beavers, which were captured in Georgia, on the Sandhills Wildlife Refuge in Chesterfield County, South Carolina. During the same period, beavers from Georgia began to invade the Savannah River drainage system. These animals established populations in counties which border the Savannah River.

The beavers in these two areas and existing remnant populations have increased their range significantly and presently occur in portions of all 46 counties in the state.

Several years ago, beavers returned to area near the boardwalk at Beidler Forest and we've since noted their activity in previous entries (1, 2). However, except for a pathetic attempt at a lodge off of Mallard Lake, we have not seen any damming within our 1.5-mile wide swamp. Damming within the swamp is certainly possible (although we thought improbable) as South Carolinians named an entire swamp for that activity. Beaver Dam Swamp is located east of Lake Moultrie near the intersection of SC 45 and US 17-A (Decimal Degrees: Latitude: 33.29833 Longitude: -79.78528). Maybe the beavers we discovered during our off-boardwalk exploration received their training in Beaver Dam Swamp.

As we walked back to the nature center on a path between the boardwalk and the cross-swamp powerline, we discovered a beaver dam across one of the many channels in the swamp. This particular channel flows under the boardwalk at #5. In the satellite image, you can see the channel of water as it crosses the clearing under the powerline. The dam is built along the southern edge of the powerline clearing and is stitched between the buttresses of trees, root masses, fallen logs, stumps, and finally to higher 100 meters to the east. The lodge is located in the deep water near the center of the powerline clearing (it appeared as if it would top our hip waders on a day that didn't top 40F, so we didn't obtain a more accurate depth reading).

Although rising water will likely overtop the dam or simply spill around the current east and west anchor points, the water currently pooled behind the dam will be irresistible to wintering waterfowl! Besides humans, no animal has the power to so dramatically alter its environment. Beavers may abandon the site when rising water circumvents their engineering project, but they will undoubtedly attempt to first modify their dam to contain the water in its new configuration.

Images by Mark Musselman

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Changing Seasons

Although the spring (March-May), with its bright green color and abundant wildlife, is considered by many to be the "best bang for your buck" season at the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center, every season offers something special. This year, foliage (in and out of the swamp) has been especially colorful. A terrific explanation for this can be found at the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service webpage (see excerpt below).

How does weather affect autumn color?
The amount and brilliance of the colors that develop in any particular autumn season are related to weather conditions that occur before and during the time the chlorophyll in the leaves is dwindling. Temperature and moisture are the main influences.

A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. During these days, lots of sugars are produced in the leaf but the cool nights and the gradual closing of veins going into the leaf prevent these sugars from moving out. These conditions-lots of sugar and lots of light-spur production of the brilliant anthocyanin pigments, which tint reds, purples, and crimson. Because carotenoids are always present in leaves, the yellow and gold colors remain fairly constant from year to year.

The amount of moisture in the soil also affects autumn colors. Like the weather, soil moisture varies greatly from year to year. The countless combinations of these two highly variable factors assure that no two autumns can be exactly alike. A late spring, or a severe summer drought, can delay the onset of fall color by a few weeks. A warm period during fall will also lower the intensity of autumn colors. A warm wet spring, favorable summer weather, and warm sunny fall days with cool nights should produce the most brilliant autumn colors.

Today's high wind will clear from the trees most of the leaves that were set to drop. With the leaves off, the swamp offers a perspective unavailable during the rest of the year. The old-growth Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) trees are visible in profile from the crown to the buttress, which is awe-inspiring. Occasionally, it even gets cold enough for the water to freeze!

Images by Mark Musselman

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mermaid Invasion

How did sailors ever mistake the manatee (Trichechus manatus), a. k. a. "sea cow," for mermaids? We've spent some time at sea and in Florida and we've never been close to making that mistake! Although a fine and gentle creature, it would take considerable quantities of grog to transform a manatee into anything approaching Daryl Hannah in Splash.

Photo Credit (manatee): USGS - Sirenia Project

Occasionally, mantees are spotted along our coast as they move north in the spring with the warming water and again as they retreat south in the winter. Mantees are not insulated as are other marine mammals and cannot survive the winter in chilly waters. The only mantees found in the United States this time of the year are the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), which can be found in coastal waters around Florida or up rivers in warm springs.

Recently, what we've been spotting along the boardwalk at the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center is neither a manatee nor its partially-clad fantasy version. However, what we've been seeing does share the name lonely sailors bestowed upon the manatee. Combleaf Mermaid Weed (Proserpinaca pectinata) has become more prominent within the shallow waters along the edge of the swamp. The US Department of Agriculture shows this plant is native to the coastal marshes from Newfoundland to Texas as well as well as Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. The USDA shows Combleaf Mermaid Weed mainly in the coastal plain of South Carolina as does the South Carolina Plant Atlas.

"According to Gray, the genus name Proserpinaca was a name used by Pliny for a Polygonum meaning 'pertaining to Proserpina.' The name was transferred to the present genus because of its ability to adapt to different habitat conditions. The species epithet pectinata derives from the Latin 'pect(in)' meaning 'a comb' referring to the leaves." (

Combleaf Mermaid Weed can grow under the water or above the water and is distinguished from other mermaid weed by its leaf arrangement - single (deeply pinnately divided or comb-like) and alternate on the stem. Although numerous online sources list the habitat of this plant as coastal marshes, ditches, bogs or lake edges, we have not been able to locate more specific information regarding the plant's habitat requirements. Knowing the plant's requirements for water depth, soil pH, sunlight, etc. would likely help us determine the cause for the increased presence along the boardwalk.

If you can point us to a source for the Combleaf Mermaid Weed's habitat requirements, please post a comment or contact us in the swamp!

Images (mermaid weed) by Mark Musselman

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fall Seasonal Naturalists

The fall seasonal naturalists arrived in September and have been busy with a variety of tasks at the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center. As always, their primary task has been providing environmental interpretation and education to children visiting from local schools. We have been remiss by not making their introduction earlier in the season.

Richard Covey is from Jacksonville, Florida. He graduated from Columbus College of Art and Design, receiving a Bachelor's in Fine Arts for Computer Animation and 3-D modeling in 2007. He enjoys all kinds of art, including, pencil, painting, and computer media, and has dabbled in printmaking and sculpture. His love of nature and exploration, especially swamps, as well any kind of insect, reptile, or thing that goes bump, hiss or growl in the night, led him to Beidler Forest where we will take advantage of every ounce his creative and artistic abilities. Currently, we have him painting displays and creating computer-based interactive opportunities for visitors in the nature center.

Before working here as a Seasonal Naturalist, he has held a variety of complex and engaging jobs. These jobs included working for a snowcone shop (becoming the first human to possess kidneys made of pure, crystalized sugar), spending four years as a Shuffleboard Attendant in Lakeside, Ohio (sweeping 26 courts every day uphill both ways in ten feet of snow), and assisting St. Mary's mission in Jacksonville by creating any media required as well as assisting in financial records. His goals put him in California and a career in computer game design. Working at Beidler Forest has been a breath of fresh air (literally and figuratively), the beauty and wildness of this place has already been a great inspiration for his art and creativity.

Sarah Green is currently fighting the War on Terror as a CIA operative taking cover in the low-key seaonal naturalist position at the geographically-isolated Francis Beidler Forest. She was not able to share too many details (the whole, "...but now I have to kill you" knowledge-sharing philosophy), but an operative was able to gleen some information from a resume. Her secret-agent credentials include sanitizing hotel rooms; Jack Bowers-like electrical wiring and schematic reading; 007-training in an anthropology department, a funeral home, a medical examiner's office, and numerous covert capture operations in North Carolina; and finally degrees in forensic biology and criminal justice. Sarah states, "I love to travel and meet people." James Bond, Jack Ryan, Maxwell Smart and Bill Cosby have all said the same thing!

Along with the students who have visited this fall, we have benefited from the talents and enthusiasm that our seasonal naturalists have brought to the Francis Beidler Forest.

Artwork by Ricky Covey (modified by Mark Musselman); image by Mark Musselman

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Photography Contest Winners

The winners of the 2008 Audubon South Carolina Nature Photography Contest, co-sponsored by the Carolinas’ Nature Photographers Association, have been selected and will be on display for three weeks at the Summerville Visitor Center beginning November 12th.

The contest invited any amateur or professional photographer to capture the beauty of the natural world at the Francis Beidler Forest (Harleyville, SC) and Silver Bluff (outside Aiken, SC) Audubon Centers. Nearly 100 entries were submitted, with participants from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, as well as numerous entrants from North and South Carolina.

Full images can be seen here.

First Place Winner ~ Best in Show was “Ibis Perching” by Scott McWatty of Lexington, SC.

Second Place Awards:
“Pine Needles with Dew” (Plant/Landscape category) by Allison Hurley of Chatham, NJ
“Lady Luna” (Wildlife category) by Lisel Shoffner Powell of New Market, MD

Third place Awards:
“Lily of the Swamp” (Plant/Landscape) by Lisel Shoffner Powell
“Banded Water Snake” (Wildlife) by Mike Baker of York, SC

Honorable Mention Awards:
“Train Coming” (Plant/Landscape) by Reggie Daves of Conway, SC
“Morning at Beidler Forest” (Plant/Landscape) by Bob Baldwin of Green Mountain, NC
“Dressed for Success” (Wildlife) by Chase Hunter of Anderson, SC
“Sweet Song of the Prothonotary” (Wildlife) by Allison Hurley

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Christmas Bling Comes Early

A Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) at the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center received some early Christmas bling when it blundered into a mist net (Disclaimer: "Bling" reference stolen from Bryce Donovan's article written on the subject).

We cannot really blame the bird for blundering into the mist net. Hermit Thrushes will defend their winter territory and we were playing a digital recording of a trash-talking Hermit Thrush. Much of the study related to birds occurs on the breeding territories or during migration and not on wintering territories. In our constant pursuit of knowledge, we would like to learn more about the birds that spend the winter with us. Do the same birds return to claim the same territory? Do males and females share a territory or do they operate independently and thus save on gift giving during the holiday season?

We could not indentify the sex of the Hermit Thrush we banded today as a brood patch is not evident in the non-breeding season, but we are curious as to whether the newly-aquired leg jewelry will cause any relationship bling envy.

Images by Mark Musselman

Monday, November 10, 2008

Spring Island Master Naturalists

Once again, the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center welcomed the Master Naturalist class from Spring Island near Beaufort, SC.

With a diversity of backgrounds from which to draw, the participants "read the landscape" during the tour of the 1.75 miles of boardwalk through the old-growth, cypress-tupelo swamp. The uniformity of tree sizes through the first pages of boardwalk that cross over a high, dry portion of land told of the destructive force unleashed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, which laid down 80% of the canopy. A few hundred meters farther down the boardwalk, the Dwarf Pametto (Sabal minor) line indicated the transition from the dry chapters to the wet chapters where the story of the swamp began. Out in the swamp, the majestic Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) trees filled the pages with more than a thousand years of history in which Hurricane Hugo was but an annoyance felling but 10% of the canopy.

During lunch in the outdoor classroom, participants used dried bird specimens to identify the differences in bill design. The specimens were collected with a permit after having die via window strikes or vehicle all-to-frequent occurence. The first two images show a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius), both of which are currently vacationing here at Beidler Forest.

Next, a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) share a bag for educational purposes.

The final stop had the participants reading the high bluff over the swamp near Mallard Lake. Here the plants appear to be out-of-place as they prefer soils that are more basic than the soils typically found in the area. Without digging through the soil, the buried pages of underlying limestone could be seen via the plant community on the surface. The abundant leaf litter provided cover and a food source for a Wolf Spider (Hogna helluo) and the seeps exiting the bluff provided a narrow micro-habitat for a variety of salamanders, including the Three-lined Salamanders (Eurycea guttolineata) shown in the image and a Southern Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus auriculatus) that was not shown.
Images by Mark Musselman

Friday, November 07, 2008

Mystery Moth

Recently, the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center received images from a visitor of a mystery moth...well, caterpillar. As the insect orders in Four Holes Swamp have not been as well-documented as plant and other animals species, we are always interested in identifying an insect, especially if we don't already have it on our list!

Images by Jeanne Seidler

The images of the caterpillar appear to be of a Luna Moth (Actias luna). Some suggested that it may also be a Polyphemus Moth (Anteraea polyphemus). However, according to the Caterpillars of North America (David L. Wagner), the Polyphemus Moth caterpillar has "flashy sliver and red warts," while the Luna Moth caterpillar has "bright magenta spotting and a weak subspiracular stripe on abdomen." Additionally, the Luna Moth caterpillar has a "anal proleg with dark band at its base that is inwardly edged with yellow, in a crude fashion resembing a head," while on the Polyphemus Moth caterpillar's "anal plate [is] continued as a line midway across A9." Finally, the Polyphemus Moth caterpillar has "steeply oblique yellow lines that pass through spiracles of A2-A7." The spiracles are the dots midway down the side of the caterpillar. Therefore, based on the color of the dots, the anal plate, and the lack of lines through the spiracles, we believe the mystery caterpillar is that of a Luna Moth.

Other caterpillar species are also busy preparing for the upcoming winter. One of today's 4th grade classes from Harleyville-Ridgeville Elementary School found a Pine Sphinx (Lapara coniferarum) caterpillar feeding around the heavily-forested parking area. Overwintering strategies include egg masses, silken cocoons attached to branches, silken cocoons wrapped in leaves, pupae burrowing into the soil, and adults seeking shelter in tree cavities or under bark. Here are some other caterpillar-related entries.

Image by Sarah Green

Can caterpillars like the Wooly Bear (Pyrrharctia isabella) predict the severity of the coming winter? "According to 'rural legend,' the width of the orange band can be used as a predictor of the severity of the coming winter, with narrower bands forecasting colder winters. In fact, the width is quite a variable character. At each molt, a protion of the black setae is replaced by orange, and hence the orange band is broadest in the last instar."

It's hard to think of winter on a day like today when the temperatures approached 80F!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Canoe Trail Rodeo

Clearing the canoe trail of fallen debris was on today's schedule for the education department at the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center. A thought while we were chest deep in the cool, swamp water..."Must be nice to be a weatherman, like the one that forecasted a day of sunshine and 70 degree weather, and know that your job is secure even when your forecast is 100% incorrect!"

As we reported in a previous entry, a large cypress had fallen onto (not across) the canoe trail and was sufficient in length to prevent its removal with the water level at the time. With the recent rains raising the level of the water in the swamp and no school groups on the schedule, we set out to remove our canoe trail nemesis! Recent wind storms had also deposited branches of various sizes onto the canoe trail, which in turn collected flotsam consisting of leaves, tupelo fruit and smaller branches. This debris was removed with ease, but the cypress behemoth mocked our plastic-paddle attempts at dislodging from within the comfort of our dry, aluminum, Grumman canoes. Like Tom "Maverick" Cruise ditching from his Grumman F-14 Tomcat, we were going to get wet.

The images show Mark Musselman, education director, riding the cypress log downstream once it had been dislodged from the spot where it had rested since March. The higher water level allowed the removal of several smaller trunks that had kept the cypress log anchored and unable to pivot. Once dislodged, the current swiftly pushed the cypress log downstream. Riding the log was the only way to keep up with and guide the log as it rocketed downstream. In the second image, the other end of the log is at the dark clumps. Eventually, the cypress log came to rest just off a bend in the canoe trail.

Although today's work also produced today's vocabulary word hypothermia, it sure beat sitting in a cubicle without a view!

Images by Sarah Green

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Dorchester County Comprehensive Plan

The Dorchester County comprehensive plan has moved nearer to adoption after the third public hearing with compromise language appearing to bring closer together both sides of the growth/development issue.

"The proposed comprehensive plan marks wide areas of rural land for low-density development, including the Highway 61 corridor and thousands of acres around Four Hole Swamp west of Summerville." (The Post and Courier, 11/4/08.)

"The Bend" area near the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center is located between Harleyville and Ridgeville and east of I-26 where Four Holes Swamp makes its sharp bend toward the Edisto River. This area has been designated to remain in its current low-density, rural land use. It can be seen, however, that the county lines between Dorchester County, Berkeley County and Orangeburg County run through the middle of Four Holes Swamp. Therefore, this comprehensive plan only deals with the western half of the swamp and adjacent lands.

As growth and development continue in our area, we will remain engaged to ensure the accomplishment of our mission, " conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity."

Image from the Dorchester County webpage.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Plant Rights

The staff at the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center believe in the protection of the 1000+-year-0ld trees in the old-growth, cypress-tupelo swamp. However, we recently discovered that we are not as enthusiastic in our defense of these plants as the Swiss are of their native plants.

In 1990, the Swiss Parliament amended their constitutional in order to defend the dignity of all creatures, including plants, against the unseen consequences of genetic manipulation. Later, the parliment asked "a panel of philosophers, lawyers, geneticists and theologians to establish the meaning of flora's dignity." (Wall Street Journal, 10/10/2008)

"In April, the team published a 22-page treatise on 'the moral consideration of plants for their own sake.' It stated that vegetation has an inherent value and that it is immoral to arbitrarily harm plants by, say, 'decapitation of wildflowers at the roadside without rational reason.'" (Wall Street Journal, 10/10/2008)

The question, "Where does it end?" has been asked by more than just the vegetarians in the world. There are enough ghastly methods of harvesting and preparing plants for human consumption to fill a library with horror novels. On his show last week, Stephen Colbert asked if the Swiss considered the feelings of the thousands of trees that were humiliated to create the paper that was used to produce the 22-page report.

Tomorrow, we encourage you to exercise your right to vote as a citizen of the United States of America. There is more at stake than the dignity of our plants.

Image by Mark Musselman
(Atamasco Lily, a.k.a Easter Lily or Naked Lady...where's the dignity in that?)