The granitic flatrocks of the Mitchell Mill State Natural Area are colorful on a late winter day, with red colonies of Diamorpha smallii scattered across a background of dark green mosses and light green lichens. The plants are currently in their semi-dormant rosette stage with no aerial stems showing yet.
Diamorpha smallii is a succulent winter annual whose seeds are disseminated by water. The seeds germinate in November and December. This winter, colonies of D. smallii have spread widely from their normal locations onto many of the adjacent flatrocks, including some areas where they have not been seen before. Some of the colonies are nestled in wet mosses and some are out on open flatrock, either partially or completely submerged in small pools of water. These shallow pools can freeze completely overnight and thaw in the bright afternoon sun. This can happen repeatedly with no apparent effect on the plants themselves.
Occasionally green colonies can be seen.
A closeup of the compact rosettes.
It will be interesting to keep track of the colonies to see if they can survive in the new locations through the coming spring. Diamorpha smallii is a rare plant in North Carolina: Status T – Threatened; Rank S2 – Imperiled.