July 27, 2022

It’s Intern Takeover Week for Coast Watch … and Nick Sullivan and Jeffery Glover took a boat trip and dressed up in mosquito netting for it.

Little St. Simons Island
Close-up image of the Hibiscus grandiflorus, which only blooms once a year — at night. Credit: Jeffery M. Glover/ The Current

An early trip for a rare beauty

Prehistoric hibiscus blooms in the depths of the maritime forest at Little St. Simons Island. At 8 feet tall, the stalks tower well above onlookers, and their massive bright pink petals contrast the sea of green around them. It’s a sight to behold.

The catch? The Hibiscus grandiflorus, or swamp rose mallow, is rarely seen by the human eye. It only opens at night before quickly withering at the heat of the sun. It’s rare, too: Little St. Simons is one of a handful of places along Georgia’s coast where the hibiscus is known to exist, due in large part to sea level rise and changing hydrology.

Led by Stewards of the Georgia Coast, The Current’s journalists Nick Sullivan and Jeffery Glover joined a small group of other media members on an early morning journey that began hours before sunrise. We set out to chronicle the story of the Hibiscus grandiflorus, equipped with rubber boots and mosquito nets — and bug spray that proved futile in its attempts to ward off swarming mosquitoes. 

An hour and a half trip to St. Simons, a boat ride across the Hampton River, a truck ride beneath Spanish moss-draped oaks and a short hike through densely forested wetlands later, we found ourselves among hundreds of the rare blossoming mallows. Read more about the rare sight here and see more photos from the trip.

Thank you to the Stewards for the opportunity… and for the nets.

— Reporter Nick Sullivan, with visual journalist Jeffery Glover

BEACH ADVISORIES: As of this writing, there are no new advisories. Standing advisories:
  • Clam Creek Beach on Jekyll Island – this area is on the back side of the island at the end of Clam Creek Road.
  • St. Andrews Beach on Jekyll Island – this area is also on the back side of the island, around the St. Andrews Picnic area.
  • King’s Ferry County Park – this inland beach area is off U.S. 17 on the Ogeechee River at the Chatham/Bryan county line.
Before you head to the beach, check the link to see current notices.

PSC OKs delay for coal-plant shutdown, solar cap

The Georgia Public Service Commission has a large list of tasks, but it checked off a larger one last week when it accepted Georgia Power’s long-term plan for providing power and billing customers over the next decades as it transitions toward cleaner energy for power generation. While the utility plans to close most of its coal-fired plants by 2028, the PSC delayed a sunset on one. The commission also continued to limit the amount of popular incentives available to homeowners to add solar power and decided not to require the utility to remove toxic coal ash from unlined ponds. Critics say the plan has some positive steps toward fighting climate change, and they criticize the PSC for ignoring pressing issues. In the fall — before the voters select 3 of the commission seats, the PSC will consider a 12% rate increase over 3 years. That’s a task that will cost the average household $16.29 a month more if the PSC accepts that plan.

Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly Credit: Erin Minuskin/Unsplash

Bad news for monarchs

The monarch butterfly may be the most recognizable pollinator, and it’s famous for its annual migration across continents. However, last week, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature placed it on its Red List of threatened species. Two migratory routes converge over Coastal Georgia, and one way we can help is to plant more milkweed and other nectar-rich plants for them to fuel up. If you need to refresh your monarch knowledge, here’s an expert to explain what the designation means.

Have you seen a hellbender?

Georgia Department of Natural Resources wants your help locating the eastern hellbender in Georgia. It’s North America’s largest salamander — aka water dog, mud dog, grampus, snot otter and lasagna lizard. They are generally found in the cooler flowing streams in north Georgia, but they’ll take any sightings since these animals give us clues to the environment’s help. Get the info DNR needs in this note from Georgia Public Broadcasting.

If you have feedback, questions, concerns, or just like what you see, let us know at thecurrentga@gmail.com.

The Tide: Rare hibiscus gives hope for survival

Years of changing hydrology threaten the freshwater wetlands these perennial plants call home. Agriculture, mosquito ditching and a rising sea have slowly chipped away at their habitats and their population.

Continue reading…

State regulators OK Georgia Power long-term plan to keep coal plants, cap solar growth

Environment and energy advocates expressed disappointment Thursday that commissioners didn’t press Georgia Power to act more urgently to mitigate climate change.

Continue reading…

Monarch butterflies join the Red List of endangered species

On July 21, 2022, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature placed the migratory monarch butterfly on its Red List of threatened species and classified it as endangered. Monarchs migrate across North America each year and are one of the continent’s most widely recognized species.

Continue reading…

EVs in short supply, high demand in Georgia

Some dealers are charging thousands above the sticker price for in-demand EVs.

Continue reading…

Support non-partisan, solutions-based investigative journalism without bias, fear or favor on issues affecting Savannah and Coastal Georgia.