Created By: Seeking Abraham Project
Perhaps nothing could be more representative of "hidden" than the humble bunched arrowhead patch on Furman's campus. Amid the trails behind the wooded lake, sits a little muddy bog no bigger than the Shack and Old College you just saw, and in it, one of the most sensitive plants in the world. Not much more distinguished in appearance than the typical broadleef "weed" in your yard, this plant has a story to tell.
The bunched arrowhead (Sagittaria fasciculata) was an important food for Native Americans who once inhabited this area, whether unidentified "Paleo-Indians" or the Cherokee who were identified when European colonists arrived in the South Carolina backcountry. The plant, also known as duck potato, Indian potato, or wapato, only grows in rare Piedmont seepage forest; underneath that murky water, you'd find an edible tuber, much like a potato, easy to collect from such a spot.
Warning: Don't pull one up! Not only would it be highly illegal, as the plant is a federally threatened species, you'd also be helping ensure the eradication of the sensitive species.
How endangered is it? Well here are a few clues: it can only be found in three counties in the entire world: Greenville and the two counties in North Carolina north of us. This little plant already had to endure Furman's land being used to farm cotton and later sustain the hooves of cattle at the Thackston Dairy that once stood here. Because of excess development in this beautiful area of the U.S., the plant is now only in a few patches. For example, in Greenville County, a handful of patches around Travelers Rest are all that is left, and just last year another was lost to development (near the University Commons shopping center on the other side of campus). A preserve north of Travelers Rest and Furman's small patch keep the plant from going extinct and only barely so--development along the Swamp Rabbit Trail threatens to change water levels at any moment. Furman's Earth and Environmental Science department (with Professor Wes Dripps) has installed monitors to try to index the area's water flow and the levels that will claim this last patch.
As Furman and its affiliates continue to utilize more land and resources--for golf courses, assisted living facilities, practice fields, or new developments yet to be known--it will be crucial to offset such development by protecting endangered species and building sustainably. The David E. Shi Center, built just above the Bell Tower and Old College, has this within its mission.
Despite all the advanced knowledge and building that institutions like Furman can create, such "civilization" can also serve as a threat to what was natural and meaningful before. So while here, take in the immense beauty of this serene spot and the walking trails through the wooded backside of the Furman Lake.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Hidden Histories of Furman University: Lake Walk