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How to love the state of South Carolina: Learn from a naturalist

Perry Nugent leads a bird walk at Caw Caw Interpretive Center, teaching the art of patient mid-air attention
Perry Nugent leads a bird walk at Caw Caw Interpretive Center, teaching the art of patient mid-air attention

Like a beautiful and mysterious woman, who also knows a thing or two about people and the world, South Carolina creates her own admirers and teaches them exactly how to love her best. Her landscapes – some sandy, some sultry, some steep and all lush – are only forbidden to the timid and the careless. But to the attentive and fearless, all her weathers, even summer thunderstorms, become opportunities for admiration and affection.

No shy violet, South Carolina is more like the rare and vibrant pool coreopsis.
Cameron Allen

Luckily, SC’s best admirers do not want to keep her all to themselves. They gladly share their insights and teach what they know, creating disciples and training protégés in the art and science of admiring the state’s environmental diversity and depth.

South Carolina naturalists, both professional and amateur, gather at the Back to Nature celebration every May hosted by the Edisto Island Open Land Trust. This year, participants studied the birds, butterflies and blossoms of South Carolina. Dr. Richard Porcher stalked wildflowers; Dr. Sidney Gauthreaux revealed the island’s glorious diversity of shorebirds, seabirds and songbirds; and Dr. Dennis Forsythe successfully chased butterflies to the delight of an enthusiastic group. The land trust, which made this possible, hosts the Tomato Open Golf Tournament on June 26, giving all another opportunity to support their good work.

State and County Parks as well as National Forests also host events in which participants can explore the landscape or seascape with an experienced naturalist. The Sewee Center at Francis Marion National Forest regularly invites experts like Richard Porcher and Ollie Buckles to lead hikes. Charleston County Parks currently hosts a Master Naturalist sampler course. And Perry Nugent creates wide-eyed birding enthusiasts every Wednesday and Saturday morning at Caw Caw Interpretive Center.

South Carolina graciously receives the devoted armchair naturalist as well. For the backyard bird lover, Wild Birds Unlimited offers materials, tips and short classes, links to help you identify a bird by sight and song.

The SC Native Plant Society, a consortium of knowledgeable experts who protect South Carolina’s native plant species through education and field work, are also eager to help you identify that mystery plant in your yard that you love, but never could name. Simply take a photo and send it in, and their expert will not only tell you its name but where it came from and how to care for it. You can even try and stump him, because like any good lover of nature, he enjoys the challenge.

True admirers know that South Carolina’s beauty is not only worth admiration, but worth fighting for and protecting. The state’s rangers and naturalists such as Nugent, Porcher, Gauthreux, Buckles, Forsythe, and all the amateurs who gather to learn from them form a wide-eyed and open-hearted troupe of peace-makers, those who understand the ethical imperative of human’s interconnectedness with the natural world. Politics notwithstanding, these folks are the true ambassadors of the state, modeling an attitude of loving attention the world, and human survival, requires.


  • Tina Ranieri 5 years ago

    Rich details!

  • Dave Sandersfeld, Oregon Nature Examiner 5 years ago

    Impressive Team! S. Carolina is very blessed.

  • jerry johnson 5 years ago

    Being a native South Carolinian, born and raised in SC, now living in Virginia for the past 22 years this article made me proud! Thank goodness we have Naturalists like those in SC and other states and other groups to keep us in touch with the beauty of the land and our roots!

  • Chuck Douros 5 years ago

    Well done. The article is well-written... alas, loving South Carolina is best left to the South Carolina natives. I spent a summer there a few years ago and have never felt such stifling humidity in my life (OK, well, Minnesota is worse). Keep writing about your state, it's a good read!

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