May 20, 2012
Nature Course 'In a Day': HS Members Tour Belser Arboretum
On May 16, USC naturalist-in-residence Rudy Mancke led Horseshoe Society members on a fascinating tour of the W. Gordon Belser Arboretum, followed by lunch.
The arboretum is a 10-acre nature preserve located in the heart of Columbia. Unlike the pine-covered Midlands of South Carolina, the Gordon Belser Arboretum is a collection of plant communities consisting of 10 different biomes (habitats), a waterfall, and a botanical garden with many unique exhibits.
“It’s kind of a well-kept secret,” Horseshoe Society member Roberta Moore
said of a site deeded to Carolina by Dr. W. Gordon Belser in 1959. Mancke discussed a variety of naturalist topics, including how to identify pine trees by their needle lengths, and the opposite-facing, leafs-and-limbs method of differentiating “MAD” (maples, ash, and dogwoods) from other trees.
He also revealed an interesting fact: Southern toad toxin was used as a “spy against spy” tactic during the Cold War. Patricia DeCoursey
, a Distinguished Professor of the College of Arts and Sciences and arboretum director, took the opportunity to release toads and their eggs to a new watery home along a walking trail. “Spring has sprung—about two weeks early, “Mancke said.
Horseshoe Society members thoroughly enjoyed what could be described, after barely more than two hours, as “a nature course in a day.”
“This arboretum is a treasure,” member Tommy Gregory said. “The cypress tree amazes me. I didn’t even know we have them except along the Congaree swamp.”“This is an absolute oasis right in the city,” said Nancy Moody.
The W. Gordon Belser Arboretum is located at 4080 Bloomwood Road in Columbia. The arboretum is open for a monthly Open House the third Sunday of every month from 1-4 p.m., except for the December Open House, which is on the second Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Greeters will be met at the entrance gates to provide handouts and answer questions. For more information, visit: http://arboretum.biol.sc.edu/
–Larry Di Giovanni,