Oconee Bell Chapter

An inaugural meeting brought together a diversity of community members to discuss ways to protect native plants as development continues in and around Cashiers, NC, according to an article published in the Cashiers Chronicle on September 6, 2023.

WHO WE ARE

Our chapter includes people who believe that just about anyone can use plants to make an outdoor space more beautiful, easier to care for, and better for wildlife whether you have a shady or an open yard, a slope that needs erosion control, or a deck space or small balcony. We were first brought together by Mary Palmer Dargan (Dargan Landscape Architects) who held a meeting at Cashiers Village Green to work toward that aim. Then at the library in Cashiers more people joined us at another event with Kyle Pursel as the speaker (Stewardship Director at Lonesome Valley who had previously worked at the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust). Kyle had been involved with numerous projects of habitat restoration, native wildflower meadow creation, wetland work, and general natural resource management. With Kyle we explored ideas for providing safe havens for the birds and wildlife that we love. Food and shelter are needed for our favorite regulars but also as pit stops for seasonal and migratory wildlife visitors. Members of the public, plant nursery owners, naturalists, scientists, and representatives of the non-profit sector began sharing tools for finding bird- and other wildlife-friendly plants for where we live. A steering committee was established with Beth Nathan leading the charge to request a new Chapter of the North Carolina Native Plant Society. Our Oconee Bell Chapter of the North Carolina Native Plant Society was approved in November, 2023. A ragtag bunch of landscape design professionals, gardeners, plant nursery owners, naturalists, scientists, and diverse members of the public, young and old (including both seasonal and year-round residents) are now hoping that more people who appreciate the beauty and value of our native plant landscapes will join us to help define future activities for our new chapter.


The Cashiers plateau is at about 3,500 ft altitude and it spans the Macon, Jackson, and Transylvania County lines with watersheds that include the headwaters of seven rivers.

WHERE WE ARE

The Oconee Bell Chapter serves an area “within comfortable driving distance” of the Cashiers crossroads. Surrounding Cashiers, the blue outline in this map shows how the plateau area spans the Macon, Jackson, and Transylvania County lines (purple). At high elevation, this plateau spans the Eastern Continental Divide, with headwaters for seven rivers that are named in this map. Some of these flow toward the Gulf of Mexico watershed while others, including two federally designated “Wild and Scenic Rivers,” feed into the Savannah River basin that drains into the Atlantic.


WHAT WE HAVE

The Oconee Bell Chapter focuses on native plants in our rare temperate rainforest with some of the highest yearly rainfall amounts in the United States. An average of 80-100 inches annual rainfall make this type of region a home to a great natural diversity of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs in addition to many wildflowers. The Oconee Bell is one of several rare or unusual plants that are adapted to our abundance of moisture, mixture of south-facing slopes, and moderate temperatures. We consider this area to be a precious bioregion where plant and animal communities must be considered together, along with their local geography and the weather that support them.


The Oconee Bell pictured here blooms early in the spring before any native deciduous trees have leaves. This photo was taken by Angela Lemon and is used here with her permission.

Sign up for Oconee Bell Chapter events:

Zoom meeting and “Wildflowers” talk. (online, NCNPS – Zoom)
SPEAKER: Adam Bigelow
21 FEB, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

“Green Drinks” at Whiteside Brewery in Cashiers: Networking for Environmental Enthusiasts.
LEADER: Hope Corbin
22 FEB, 4:00 PM – 6:30 PM

“Mountaintop Forest Garden” tour of Southern Highlands Reserve for Oconee Bell Chapter members.
LEADER: Kelly Holdbrooks
2 MAY, 9:30 AM – 1:30 PM

“Native Plant Swap and Children’s Pollinator Activities” at the Green Market of the Cashiers Village Green.
LEADER: Arielle McIntyre
29 MAY, 2:00 PM – 5:30 PM

Oconee Bell Chapter newsletters are archived here. Click here to sign up for the Oconee Bell Chapter newsletter emails or you can follow us on Instagram or Facebook.

For feedback or questions, reach us via email to Nancy Anderson: oconeebellco@ncwildflower.org