COLUMBIA, S.C.–The largest remaining Eastern hemlock trees in South Carolina got a dose of tender loving care recently when Duke Energy funded treatment of trees in Oconee County’s Coon Branch Natural Area to help the hemlocks in their battle against the deadly hemlock woolly adelgid.
This is the third time in 10 years that Duke Energy has funded treatment of hemlocks along the Whitewater River in Coon Branch Natural Area, which is part of the Jocassee Gorges. Without the treatments, most, if not all, of these hemlocks would have succumbed to the hemlock woolly adelgid, which has decimated Eastern hemlocks across the Southern Appalachians in the past 20 years.
Appalachian Arborists of Asheville, N.C., completed the recent hemlock treatments at Coon Branch and administered the 2008 and 2011 treatments. The hemlocks were treated by soil injection with insecticides that are taken up by the trees’ vascular systems, killing the adelgids. Without the treatments, hemlocks with adelgids will likely die within two to four years.
Duke Energy has spent a total of about $20,000 in the past decade to help keep the Eastern hemlocks alive along the Coon Branch Natural Area Trail.
A towering Eastern hemlock along the Whitewater River shows the vibrant green of a healthy tree, thanks to insecticide treatments funded by Duke Energy. The dead skeletons of two hemlocks alongside the healthy tree show the consequences of not treating hemlocks. (SCDNR photo by Greg Lucas)
The Coon Branch Natural Area Trail is a spur trail of the Foothills Trail (www.foothillstrail.org), a 77-mile trail between Oconee and Table Rock state parks. Coon Branch Natural Area, accessed through Duke Energy’s Bad Creek Hydro Project, is owned by Duke Energy and is part of the Jocassee Gorges lands that Duke Energy voluntarily placed under conservation easement.
The Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund (www.hamptonwildlifefund.org) facilitated management and disbursement of funds from Duke Energy for the hemlock treatment. The Hampton Fund, headquartered in Columbia, receives private funds to help conserve fish, wildlife, marine and other natural resources in South Carolina.
The Jocassee Gorges in northern Pickens and Oconee counties is a land of mountains, diverse plant communities, waterfalls and abundant wildlife. It is frequented by hunters, anglers, hikers and many other types of recreationists and is managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). Learn more about the Jocassee Gorges at https://www2.dnr.sc.gov/ManagedLands/ManagedLand/ManagedLand/53