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BEAUTIFUL TREES AND PLANTS, FLOWERS IN A RIOT OF COLORS, STONE WALKWAYS AND PERGOLAS AWAIT THE VISITORS WHO TAKE PART IN GARDEN TOURS THIS MONTH IN HILTON HEAD ISLAND AND SUN CITY IN BLUFFTON.

gardenmay14For those of an historic persuasion, there will be a tea in Old Town Bluffton with scones and desserts and a fashion show of vintage dresses dating back to the 1800s.

The Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, which is putting on the tea, is considering adding a garden tour next year to its repertoire of walking historic tours.

The 27th annual All Saints Garden Tour, the granddaddy of the garden tours sponsored by All Saints Episcopal Church, will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 17, and has the theme of “A Potpourri of Gardens.” It will feature seven home gardens and the gardens of Hilton Head Island High School.

WHAT ANIMAL HAS 10 EYES, TELLS TIME WITH ITS TAIL, CHEWS WITH ITS LEGS AND IS 445 MILLION YEARS OLD?

crabhorsesIf you guessed a horseshoe crab you are correct! The American Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus) is an amazing creature that can be found in our coastal waters and sometimes on our beaches. The horseshoe crab is not a true crab like a blue crab or ghost crab. Although it is related to true crabs, the horseshoe crab is surprisingly even more closely related to spiders and scorpions.

The horseshoe crab spends most of its time moving along the ocean floor like a small tank, eating shellfish, worms and dead and decaying matter. Ten walking legs, a mouth, two chelicera (appendage use for placing food in their mouth), and book gills, are located on the underside of the horseshoe crab. They are protected by a hard exoskeleton.

Sea Turtle Protection Project monitors Hilton Head’s endangered reptiles

greenhhi10Loggerhead sea turtles emerge from the ocean onto Hilton Head beaches every year in May to lay their eggs. Last year, 339 sea turtle nests broke the previous record for Hilton Head Island set in 2011 (324 nests).

It is a rare sight to see a 400-pound sea turtle lumber up the beach on fins designed to push her gracefully through the water.

It happens at dusk and into the night. Under the cover of darkness, the female loggerhead avoids predators and baking in the summer sun; her cold-blooded, reptilian nature does not allow her to regulate her own body temperature. Her approach, the dig, the egg laying, the disguise, and the return can take anywhere between 2 to 4 hours depending on the tide and obstacles on the beach.

greenhhi5Residents fresh from the Midwest get in their minds that a green, manicured lawn is healthy, but the native plants are so much better.

For decades, Hilton Head Island has proudly proclaimed its “green” creds, pointing to its development rules that preserve trees, programs to set aside acres of green space throughout the island and efforts to protect sea turtles.

In the meantime, other communities have eagerly and aggressively climbed about the ecotourism bandwagon.

DR. ERIC MONTIE TEACHES ANIMAL PHYSIOLOGY, NEUROBIOLOGY AND ICHTHYOLOGY AT USCB’S HILTON HEAD GATEWAY CAMPUS.

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His research interests involve marine biology, neurobiology and ecotoxicology. His research program focuses on brain architecture, hearing of fish and marine mammals, and acoustic communication of aquatic vertebrates. The more applied part of his research program focuses on studies that investigate how stressors, such as man-made chemicals, harmful algal blooms, noise pollution, and climate change may impact the brain, hearing, and acoustic communication.

Experience Green has spent four years making the Lowcountry’s future a little greener.

There’s no one thing you can do to make the world a better place. There’s no magic bullet to make for cleaner water, clearer air, and a brighter tomorrow. There are, however, a million little things you can do. And few know this like Experience Green founder Teresa Wade.

“So many people are motivated to make big changes, starting with the small changes,” she said.

3 local growers share their stories, secrets, recipes

greenhhi32It’s March. That means it’s the time of year that gardeners across Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, long itching to dig in the soil again, will be pulling out their hoes and trowels and set about planting their first crop of the new year.

Some will plant their garden in their backyard. But many others without a back yard, or with one too small to fit their ambitions, have the opportunity to turn to a community garden where, for a fee, they can plant to their heart’s content in their very own vegetable patch — or double up with two.

greenhhi20On Hilton Head Island, it’s hard to ignore the variety of birds one sees, from shorebirds to warblers and wrens.

For some, a passing observation is sufficient: “I saw a big white bird in the marsh.”

Conversely, Audubon Society members might note, “I saw an ibis. I noticed it was a juvenile because its beak wasn’t deep red yet.”

Providing that extra layer of knowledge is what the Hilton Head Island Audubon Society does through its monthly programs, nature walks through the Audubon Newhall Preserve, field trips and “Ecobon” newsletter, said Rick Riebesell, chapter president.

“One of the things we try to do is to get people involved in understanding that our natural world is something we have to protect,” Riebesell said. “Why has nature reacted this way? Once you’ve hit that point -- that I should pay attention -- you need knowledge.”

greenhhi19If Old Town is the heart of Bluffton, the May River is its soul.

The meandering 15-mile long river, just south of Old Town Bluffs, has been an integral part of Bluffton since it was established as a formal town in 1825.

The river, which unlike most rivers, has no high ground headwaters that feed fresh water from upper streams and creeks.

Instead it depends on tidal shifts that flush it out with saltwater from its down river mouth at the Calibogue Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.

This flow has helped make the May River an oasis for oysters, shrimp, crabs and saltwater fin fish.

greenhhi18A federally funded study is investigating the economic benefits of beach renourishment projects using outer continental sand resources along the Carolinas Coast.

The $260,000 study funded by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has three components.

One, what effect does renourishment have on property values next to the beaches? Two, do beach improvements create benefits for visitors, and if so, how do these benefits translate into increased use value and changes in economic expenditures? Three, do renourishment projects result in higher tax revenues and employment further inland?