Christine Brown said she feels as though she's doing her small part to preserve the environment by protecting an endangered plant species in her yard.
Brown said she's concerned about global warming and the disappearance of entire species, but she's determined that the small patch of endangered relict trillium in her yard will have a place to prosper.
"It is kind of like this special thing in your yard," Brown said. "I think we feel so like we can't do anything about anything. I feel like I can protect my trillium."
Brown, a master gardener, discovered a patch of 15 of the tiny three-leafed plants among some shaded junipers outside her Stevens Pointe home nearly a decade ago.
The former docent at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens said she read an article about the perennial herb and kept her eyes open for them.
While walking her dog along the undeveloped shores of Bowen Pond, near her home, Brown said she found what she believed to be the rare form of trillium. She came home to find several plants in her yard.
Relict trillium was added to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Endangered Species List in 1988. The plant has purple or yellow flowers, and grows only in small areas of Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, according to the Fish & Wildlife Service.
Columbia County is one of five Georgia counties boasting populations along rivers and waterways. The plant thrives on the deeply shaded floors of mature, moist hardwood forests.
"It is only along the river or tributary in Augusta proper," said Dr. Judy Gordon, a retired Augusta State University biology professor.
Gordon said she believes Brown's plants to be the rare relict trillium after viewing photos of them.
The trillium populations are declining mainly because of logging and the development of its habitats.
Brown's small population is not the first to be found in the county.
Several trillium patches were located in the early 1990s during the construction of the Savannah Rapids Pavilion building. The population was protected or moved and construction moved ahead.
Work on the new Crawford Creek bridge was halted for months in 2002 while officials searched for the trillium, which was never found.
Brown said she learned about trillium through her research and working with the botanical gardens, which had a donated relict trillium garden. Many of the sensitive plants died during transplanting, Brown said.
"I don't touch it. We just protect it, love it, kiss it, smile at it and leave it alone," Brown said. "What I learned at the Botanical Gardens in Atlanta is that if they are there and they are growing, they are already getting everything they want and need, so leave them alone."
The trillium bloom in the early spring, followed by small, berrylike fruits. Brown's plants, mostly clustered in a shady area near the road, are at the end of their bloom. The plant is herbaceous, therefore it will die back to the ground each year and sprout and reproduce from rhizomes below ground level.
"By about June or July, they are hard to find," Brown said. "If you are going to spot them, this is the time to spot them."
Brown said she told her neighbor about the endangered plant and now a constant stream of people come by to see it. Brown doesn't mind the visitors as long as they don't disturb the plants.
She hopes her efforts will urge others to protect trillium and any other endangered species.
"Education is everything," Brown said. "If (people) see them and they know about it, very few people are going to pull one up in their yard if they know it is an endangered plant and they have it in their yard."
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