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Community Interest

Etowah River Trail website launched




A project more than two years in the making to map and document all 163 miles of the Etowah River has been completed. The Coosa River Basin Initiative (CRBI) celebrated the completion this month.


In an ongoing effort to create an Etowah River water trail, on Oct. 1 CRBI launched its Etowah River Water Trail website (,  a comprehensive guide to the Etowah River from the river’s beginning along the Appalachian Trail in Lumpkin County to its confluence with the Oostanaula River in Rome.


The Etowah Water Trail website serves as a guide for river users, providing information about public access points, river features and mileage, historic sites and more. An interactive map allows site visitors to learn about points of interest along the river. Printable maps and guides can also be downloaded from the site. Funding for the project was provided by the Lyndhurst Foundation in Chattanooga.


Pickens' Old Jail open for 2012 tours



By Maria Boling

The sun was shinning on Pickens County’s Old Jail last Saturday.  Ruth Wall, President of the Marble Valley Historical Society, Inc., opened the doors; let in the sweet spring air and began the 2012 season.

The MVHS, Inc. assumed responsibility for The Old Jail when it was evacuated in 1982.  They raised money for rehabilitation and restoration of the facility and added a Pickens County Museum and Law Enforcement Exhibit.  Among the displays are the 1906 construction plan and contract.

Tours are a reasonable $3.  The Marble Valley Historical Society members hold open the facility to the public on weekends from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. from April to October.

Plants of the Southeast -- Maidenhair fern



By John Nelson

Botanists tend to be rather easy-going people, usually. They enjoy being outdoors on field trips and seeing interesting plants…and some botanists are known for an occasional and perhaps unusual sense of humor. My own long-suffering students over the years have been subjected, by me, to a wide variety of brilliant anecdotes and excellent puns. (Well, that’s the way I think about them.) One of my little stories involves ferns: whenever we come up to a patch of them growing in the woods, I usually end up remarking that we must be in “Fern land” and that maybe we are near Helsinki. (I’ve got plenty more similarly excellent jokes, but maybe I’ll share them with you at a later time.)

But seriously folks, ferns represent an extremely ancient plant lineage, easily dating back to the early “Carboniferous” period, some 345 million years ago, and well before the first dinosaurs. They and their relatives were instrumental in the development of vast deposits of coal as they died and decayed, and their legacy as a source of fossil fuels makes them extremely important, at least as far as human economy goes. And, from these deposits fossilized ferns are commonly encountered. Modern ferns are indeed vascular plants, meaning that their roots, stems and leaves contain various tissues that transport water and dissolved substances. Ferns do not produce flowers, however, nor do they produce seeds in the way that flowering plants do. Rather, ferns and their relatives reproduce by spreading tiny spores. The spores commonly originate in specialized structures called sporangia on the lower (bottom) sides of the fronds. Depending on the particular kind of fern, these sporangia will be arranged in a rather characteristic pattern, often as small, roughened dots …each one is called a “sorus” and the plural is “sori”… on the divisions of the frond.

“Maidenhair fern,” Adiantum pedatum, though, is somewhat unusual in having its sporangia not consigned to sori as in many other ferns…but rather at the margins of the frond’s ultimate divisions where hidden away and protected by a thin overlapping margin of leaf tissue.

This is a common fern species in deciduous forests all over the eastern United States, from New England to northern Florida, and as far west as Oklahoma. In the Southeast you will find Maidenhair ferns in the piedmont and mountain counties, generally away from the coast. It likes to grow in damp shady places, but it can be found in open sites. The plants come up from a horizontal stem that clings to the soil or to rocks and each frond has a smooth, shiny, nearly black stalk. The frond is prominently divided into many divisions and the effect is something like a fan. The divisions of the frond are quite delicate, affording a lovely shimmering effect in the slightest breezes, such as those near waterfalls.

So there we are. “Sori” for all the fern jokes.

John Nelson is the curator of the Herbarium at the University of South Carolina in the Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia S.C. 29208. As a public service, the Herbarium offers free plant identifications. For more information visit www. or call 803-777-8196.

Local murder revisited from six decades ago


J. H. Dilbeck-Atlanta Journal / Photo
In this 1949 photograph, Pickens County Sheriff Howard Cagle (right) stands with H.V. Shelton (left) and H.V. Brinkman by the well at Blaine where Earl Holbert’s body was recovered.


     Just 23 years old at his death, Grady Earl Holbert stood five feet, nine inches tall and weighed about 145 pounds. His eyes were blue, his hair brown. A veteran, Holbert served as  a tank soldier in the European theater of World War II. He was just a teenager then. Four years later, Holbert drove a taxi, his own, based from Jasper under the sign, Veteran Taxi. He went missing the night of Tuesday, February 22, 1949.

Smell of sweet shrub filling woods of North Ga.


The early arrival of spring-like weather in the southeast will have Sweet Shrub in bloom and providing a great scent to the woods of North Georgia. (Photo by Linda Lee)


By John Nelson

Not many things could be finer, here in Carolina, or anywhere in the southeast, as far as wonderful fragrance than Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus floridus). We are having a rather early spring it seems, and this is a plant that is already beginning to unfold its marvelous flowers which can give off an amazingly sweet fragrance. A stand of these plans also known as Carolina allspice in your garden on a warm spring evening is something to invite your friends over for. For dessert.

This is a shrub that is native to the Southeast and is fairly common in many places from northern Virginia down through lower Mississippi.