Wed, 24 Apr 2013 10:41:00 CDT — by: Jane Brown, '13
Fragrant flowers are starting to bud in bold colors across the Sewanee Domain around this time of year. Shakerag and Lost Cove are two of the most popular places to catch a glimpse of this dazzling botanical display. The flowers exist all around Sewanee, but in these two spots they are protected from the white-tailed deer, a popular predator who view these beauty’s as floor candy fresh for the nibbling.
Shakerag and Lost Cove offer steep terrain and large boulders that deer find hard to traverse, thus the amount of wildflowers in these places exceeds those in other areas.
Due to the overpopulation of deer in the Sewanee area, wildflowers are taking a beating, especially in Dick Cove, which acts as a natural through-way for deer coming up to the plateau from the valley. Students in Conservation-biology are looking for ways to monitor and restore some wildflower populations, with an emphasis on the Dick Cove area. They are aiming to see if the experimental areas they set up will have an influence on increasing wildflower population. To do this, they have set up 5 fenced areas and 5 control areas, 5 meters by 5 meters each. They will be looking at the density of wildflowers by taking photos of each 1 meter square. They will also monitor the percentage of reproductive resources. One of the more sensitive species which is also a strong deer browse indicator is Trillium (shown below on left).
Although results may not be seen until the future, this type of study has never been done before. A monitoring project like this and the results are very important. People come from all around to enjoy the illustrious wildflowers in Sewanee. Restoring Dick Cove may take up to 15-20 years. The flora and fauna are not only important to reducing the impact of overpopulation of deer, but also to restoring the beauty of the area. So get out and see the beautiful flowers elsewhere and hope they will regenerate in Dick’s Cove soon!