To imagine the beauty of Shortia galacifolia without benefit of pictures, one needs to conjure the image of a fresh fruit salad. The plant’s rosette of slightly oblong, serrate leaves have the color and gloss of a waxy green apple, with pinnate veins so prominent the leaves appear almost crinkled. When Oconee Bells bloom, long slender scapes the color of pink grapefruit hold aloft persistent bud scales the color of ripe papaya, which in turn hold a persistent calyx. The calyx is the color of a honeydew melon, melding into the color of cantaloupe at its tips. The bell-shaped flowers are white to pale pink, with beautifully veined petals both rounded and lobed, appearing as fringed as the buckskin dresses worn by Cherokee women. The flower nods to the ground. Banana yellow stigmas hold five pie-shaped anthers that point towards a much taller style. Rarely does the height of the plant, flower and all, exceed four inches. ~K

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We depart from the main boat dock at Devils Fork State Park, Salem SC, 28676