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U.S. Forest Service

Southern Region Viewing Area


Wet savanna. Conifer Road wet savanna. Photo by Ricky Wrenn.

Common grass pink. Common grass pink. Photo by Ricky Wrenn.

Yellow fringed-orchid and hooded pitcher plants. Yellow fringed-orchid and hooded pitcher plants. Photo by Ricky Wrenn.

Francis Marion Wildflower Driving Tour: Conifer Road Loop

Forest: Francis Marion and Sumter National Forest

District: Francis Marion National Forest

Description: The Francis Marion National Forest provides habitat for several wildflowers, including orchids, carnivorous plants, and native grasses, sedges, legumes, and flowering forbs. Many of these can be seen from the road, where they grow in roadside ditches or among the towering loblolly and longleaf pines, pond and bald cypress, and swamp chestnut oak swamps and forests. The most diverse native ecosystems on the Francis Marion National Forest are maintained with frequent fire, a process that dominated the landscape historically, and is now carefully implemented. This area of the lower Atlantic coastal plain has a very high water table, resulting in a rich mosaic of upland and wetland plant communities. The driving tour will take you through some of the best examples of native seasonally wet longleaf pine ecosystems on the forest.

Wildflower viewing: Wildflower viewing occurs from spring to fall and is best in areas with a recent history of prescribed burning, which typically occurs March-May. In late spring, look for yellow leopard's bane (Arnica acaulis) and sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa), white sun-bonnets (Chaptalia tomentosa), orchids such as pinkbearded and common grass-pinks (Calopogon barbatus and tuberosus), rose pogonia (Pogonia ophioglossoides), spreading pogonia (Cleistes divaricata), carnivorous pitcher plants (Sarracenia minor and flava), milkweeds (Asclepias tuberosa and longifolia) and blue flag iris (Iris tridentata). Throughout summer and early fall, you will see blue-hearts (Buchnera floridana), pink and yellow meadow beauties (Rhexia virginica, mariana, alifanus, and lutea), white or pink sabatias (Sabatia angularis, difformis, and campanulata), purple blazing stars (Liatris sp.), Barbara's buttons (Marshallia graminifolia), and orange crested, yellow, and fringeless orchids (Platanthera cristata, ciliaris, integra).

Safety First: If walking in the Francis Marion, be prepared for standing water, standing snags and stump holes, flying and biting insects, hot and humid conditions, and the possibility for snakes. Be sure to wear the proper footwear including rubber boots during the wetter months of spring and fall, insect repellant, long sleeves and long pants, light and breathable clothing, a line of communication such as a cell phone, and plenty of water. Be aware of your surroundings and bring a map and compass or global positioning system (GPS). Access to the area is good and the new district office is located in proximity to this area on Steed Creek Road (SC133). Keep in mind that the collection of plant materials is strictly prohibited on the forest without a permit.

Directions: From SC Hwy.17 in Awendaw or SC Hwy.41 in Huger, travel on Steed Creek Road (SC133) to Halfway Creek Road (SC98), then north to Conifer Road (FS166). From Conifer Road, turn left on Buckle Island (FS171), Windom Corner (FS161), Bob Morris (FS174), or Dog Swamp Roads (FS265) back to Steed Creek Road or Halfway Creek Road. Contact the Supervisor’s Office at 803-561-4071, or the district office, for more information.

Closest Town: Awendaw or Huger, South Carolina.

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