Conservation // 5 min Read

Wetlands and Waterways of Moreland Village

Written by Palmetto Bluff

Just behind the new home of the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy in Moreland Village is one of those special places on property where an ancient beach evolved into a modern wetland. I am particularly drawn to this landscape and its subtleties, where mere inches in elevation result in dramatically different habitats and give us an opportunity to explore the Bluff’s unique ecology and history.

If you look closely at a topography map of Palmetto Bluff, you’ll notice that the land seems to undulate, with parallel lines of high ground running from northeast to southwest. These lines are archaic dunes, the remnants of prehistoric beaches formed long before the first human set foot in North America. Between these dune lines are low spots, some of which are now wetlands that are some of the richest ecological areas of Palmetto Bluff.

Wetlands of Wonder

As you stand on the boardwalk near the Outfitters in Moreland Village looking out over maples and sweetgums and listening to a chorus of frogs, it’s hard to imagine that these wetlands need more than just preservation, but they do. In many places on the Bluff, including Moreland, the Conservancy is overseeing a project of environmental restoration to help preserve these unique environments. As in other areas in the Lowcountry, this work centers around repairing the consequences of those who came before us. For example, behind the new Conservancy headquarters is a wetland that, during the Antebellum era, was used as a rice field, and then after the Civil War, was a place for cattle to graze, and later was used for turpentine and timber production.

Over the next few years, the Conservancy team will begin the process of reclaiming and enhancing this wetland area by restoring drainage features, removing invasive species and replanting native plants. One of the biggest threats to wetlands at the Bluff is the Chinese tallow, a tree species brought over by European settlers that was used for making candles and soap. Unfortunately, the Chinese tallow tree thrives in the South, and it chokes out native species as it soaks up water and nutrients in marshes, along rivers or in wetlands. Left unchecked, the Chinese tallow soon becomes the dominant plant in an ecosystem; native plants are edged out, and animals follow. Removal of the tallow is difficult but not impossible, and it involves hand-clearing as well as chemical treatments. Perseverance is the key to success, however, and the Conservancy is committed to eliminating this invader.

Drainage patterns leading to and from the marsh will also be restored, which will allow for more salt-tolerant species to creep into the landscape and create a new, more diverse edge than what is there today. Finally, native plants such as buttonbush and grasses will be returned to the wetlands, providing important filtration of surface water as well as food and cover for a variety of creatures that call the Bluff home.

The Transitional Zone

At the edge of this wetland lies a transitional zone that leads to the upland ecosystem. This is where a second project is necessary: the restoration of the wetland buffer. Every wetland in Palmetto Bluff is surrounded by a protected area of gradually increasing elevation. These areas vary in size, but each is large enough to slow down and filter surface water as it enters the wetland. In many cases, the buffer consists of pine forests left behind from intensive forest management, and such is the case for the Moreland Village wetland.

The Conservancy’s goal here is to bring this transitional zone back to its native state and to apply what we learn here to other areas at Palmetto Bluff. Virginia sweetspire and coastal doghobble, as well as other species, will be planted and studied, helping the team better understand how to maintain a healthy ecosystem in these vital buffer areas. Wetland edges are also important wildlife travel corridors, and we hope to learn which plant species provide the best forage and cover.

Rice Crop

As you walk along the wetland edge at the Outfitters in Moreland, behind the Conservancy’s classroom, you’ll notice that a tall grass is growing in rectangular plots. This is Carolina Gold rice, a crop that at one time provided prosperity to a few and caused enslavement for thousands in South Carolina. Historically, rice was grown in two different ecosystems at Palmetto Bluff: in the interior freshwater wetlands and along marsh edges where freshwater wetlands drained into the tidal estuaries. Along the marsh edges, dikes were built to prevent the fresh water from draining away. (After you go through the entrance gate of Palmetto Bluff, you drive across an old dike of one such impoundment.)

Antebellum rice cultivation was backbreaking and dangerous work: venomous snakes and disease-carrying mosquitoes thrived in fields that were partially flooded to control weeds. Here at the Bluff, rice was grown as a staple rather than a major cash crop (Sea Island cotton was more lucrative), but rice still demanded the arduous labor of enslaved people. The small plots of rice outside the Conservancy are intended as an educational resource and as an opening into a discussion of our history and ecology.

Waterways of the Bluff

The wetland and transitional zone behind the Outfitters gives way to one of the most exciting features of the Conservancy complex: the interpretive pond (and the best fishing hole on property). In addition to the recreational opportunities our ponds and waterways provide, their primary purpose is to catch and treat the surface water flowing from natural environments as well as developed areas. These bodies of water capture runoff and slow it down so that particulates can settle out of the water column, allowing clean water to flow out or be filtered through the soil. The ponds also create an additional edge for wildlife and plants providing cover and allowing safer access to water.

The interpretative pond at Moreland proves that protecting our ecosystems from runoff can provide opportunities for fun and discovery. Come down and find out more about the freshwater fish (and maybe reel one in), about how the plants growing at the water’s edge form the littoral shelf habitat, and about how the Conservancy is experimenting to find new ways of conserving and enhancing our natural world.

We do not know who will inherit this property from us or what their needs will be; we can only act with respect and listen to the land, restoring what we can and embracing our history while making environmentally responsible decisions. Our hope is that you will allow the landscape to reveal its story to you and that you will come to love it as much as we do.

Rediscovering Carolina Gold

One of Palmetto Bluff’s property owners, Dr. Richard Schulze, is responsible for reviving the production of Carolina Gold rice. Schulze tracked down seeds of Carolina Gold rice in Houston, Texas, in 1985 and started growing it on his land. He documented the history of the crop in Carolina Gold Rice: The Ebb and Flow History of a Lowcountry Cash Crop. Pick up a copy for a fascinating read on an important piece of history.

Photos by Rob Kaufman%GALLERY%

Food & Wine
A Freshly Picked Summer Recipe

What’s more “summer” than tomatoes from the garden? Or, in Palmetto Bluff’s case–tomatoes from The Farm? We asked our newest addition to the Palmetto Bluff Club’s culinary team, Chef Beth, to share a classic summer staple from her library of recipes: Fattouche...

Jul 2024

Culture
Meet Palmetto Bluff Club Members Pat and Patti Henry

How did you two meet? Patti: We actually met in college but never dated. We went to Auburn University and both moved to Atlanta after graduation. He was in graduate school at Emory, and I worked as a nurse at Emory’s Children’s Hospital. Pat: Our friend grou...

Jul 2024

Waterways
Your Complete Guide to Palmetto Bluff’s Waterways

Boat The Bluff: South Carolina Waterways Imagine gliding through serene, glassy waters surrounded by lush marshlands and maritime forests. Welcome to Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina—a paradise for nature enthusiasts, water sports aficionados, and anyone seekin...

Jul 2024

Culture
Oh My Stars And Stripes

Photography by Charlotte Zacharkiw The fourth of July is the highlight of the Palmetto Bluff calendar. Follow along with the Truslow family on this magical summer day.  Neal and Lauren Truslow come to Palmetto Bluff as often as they can. Their kids...

Jun 2024

Conservation
Preserving Paradise: The Mission of the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy

Protecting Nature and History at Palmetto Bluff In the heart of South Carolina's Lowcountry lies Palmetto Bluff, a sanctuary of natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant ecosystems. Since its establishment in 2003, the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy has been dedi...

Jun 2024

Waterways
Slow Boat to Beaufort

Photography by Gately Williams Cruise Control Palmetto Bluff lies at the heart of the vast network of rivers and creeks that connect the South Carolina Lowcountry’s barrier islands. A stone’s throw from the notable cultural and historic hubs of Savannah, B...

Jun 2024

Real Estate
Behind the Bluff: A Journey with Palmetto Bluff Real Estate Sales Executive Tracy Schyberg

Tracy’s Journey to Palmetto Bluff Real Estate Situated in the heart of Bluffton, South Carolina, Palmetto Bluff is more than just a community—it's a place of magic and wonder. For Tracy Schyberg, a dedicated sales executive with the Palmetto Bluff Real Estate...

Jun 2024

Architecture & Design
Your Complete Guide to Lowcountry Landscaping

Enhancing Coastal Living With Lowcountry Landscaping Trends The Lowcountry lies along the southeastern coast of the United States, a region known for its breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and unique culture. From the charming streets of Charleston to the...

Jun 2024

Real Estate
Neighborhood Spotlight: Moreland Forest

Palmetto Bluff Real Estate Available in Moreland Forest Nestled in the heart of the Lowcountry, Moreland Forest is a charming neighborhood known for its beautiful natural surroundings, Lowcountry architecture, and luxurious amenities. Within the lush forests ...

Jun 2024

Real Estate
Real Estate Sales Report: Palmetto Bluff’s First Quarter Update

Real Estate in Bluffton SC: Trends, Updates, and Insights Positioned amidst the serene Lowcountry landscape of South Carolina, Palmetto Bluff stands as a beacon of luxury and natural beauty, attracting discerning homebuyers seeking an unparalleled lifestyle. ...

May 2024

CURIOUS ABOUT LIFE AT THE BLUFF?

Sign up for our newsletter

LIVE
Community Villages
Experience
Palmetto Bluff Club
On The Water
The Arts Initiative
Events
Conserve
About Us