Nature Trail



The Georgia Power Sweet Gum Trail and Elam Alexander Outdoor Classroom, which first opened more than 30 years ago, has gone through many transformations since then. It is now part of a restoration process to eradicate invasive species and restore some of the native plants that once grew here.

We are very proud of the heritage and scientific value of the trail and grounds at the Museum of Arts and Sciences. Please help us preserve their beauty!

  • Members and guests are restricted to the durable black path, which allows visitors to comfortably enjoy the beauty of the trail and minimizes unnecessary disturbance of the native wildlife and habitats.
  • Collection of flora or fauna is prohibited and we ask that you not feed the wildlife.
  • Please do not litter—waste baskets are located at the entrance near the picnic tables.

Noted southern writer Harry Stillwell Edwards (1855-1938) built the Kingfisher Cabin as a writing location on his property at Holly Bluff in 1928.

The Kingfisher Cabin is one of the many treasures located on the Nature Trail at the Museum of Arts and Sciences.

The Sweet Gum Trail is free and open daily during daylight hours.

Sweet Gum Nature Trail Guide

To download this Guide (PDF), click here

Sweet Gum
The namesake of the trail, the Sweet Gum Tree, is a common tree found throughout Georgia. The leaves have a distinctive star-shape and are fragrant when crushed. It produces one of the most intriguing looking fruit—a round, prickly ball. The wood of the Sweet Gum has traditionally been used as furniture-grade lumber. Some people refer to it as the Camper’s Tree because its branches make excellent marshmallow roasting sticks. The sap of the Sweet Gum was used by Native Americans to cure a variety of ailments. Since the Sweet Gum is a relatively fast growing tree and has a natural resilience to insect damage, it has recently been used for reclaiming the land of former phosphorous and zinc mines.
Native Plants Our local Master Gardeners have been working diligently to restore native plants along the trail. Our native plant garden includes many species including Oakleaf Hydrangea, Red Buckeye, Spotted Trillium, and Ocmulgee Skullcap. Several species of native plants growing in the garden are considered threatened or endangered. We hope that you enjoy the colorful blooms of our native plants but please do not pick any of the flowers.
Kingfisher Cabin
The cabin was the writing retreat of the late Harry Stillwell Edwards. Edwards, who was from the Macon area, built the cabin on his family’s property at Holly Bluff in 1928. It was here that he wrote the majority of his short stories and articles for his column in the Atlanta Journal. Kingfisher Cabin was named for the type of birds commonly found at the cabin’s original location. The historic cabin was moved to the Museum grounds in 1964.
Birds As you walk along the trail you will notice many different species of birds visiting the plants, bird feeders, and pond. Some birds that you are likely to see while spending time along the trail are the Northern Cardinal, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, and American Robin. There are several different species of woodpeckers that like to visit the trees along the trail. Among the species of woodpeckers you are likely to see are the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Downy Woodpecker.
Ferns There are several different species of ferns growing along the trail. These include Sensitive Fern, Hay-scented Fern, Christmas Fern, Maidenhair Fern, and Netted Chain Fern. Of special interest is the Resurrection Fern growing on the large Post Oak along the trail. Resurrection Ferns are an air plant which means they grow upon other plants and receive their nutrients from the air. They tend to live on branches of large trees such as the Post Oak. Its name comes from the fact that during long periods of drought it will turn brown and curl up but when it receives just the tinniest amount of rain it will turn green and unfurl itself!
Pond
This man-made pond is home to numerous examples of aquatic life. The water in the pond is the result of rainfall run-off from the parking lot and surrounding areas. The pond is shallow, just over four feet at the deepest point. The drainpipe keeps the pond from overflowing and flooding the trail.
Amphibians There are many kinds of amphibians living in and around the pond. In the spring, they return to lay their eggs. Thousands of tadpoles hatch in this pond. The most common frogs found along the edges of the pond are Leopard, Bull, Green and Bronze Frogs. The Cricket, Spring Peepers and Chorus Tree Frogs live in the nearby vegetation and are usually heard singing in the spring. Other amphibians include American, Southern, Fowler’s and Oak Toads.
Turtles
Turtles, lay and bury their eggs on dry land surrounding the pond. Some of the turtles found in or around the pond are Mud, Musk, Painted, Yellow Bellied Slider, and Snapping Turtles. The trail is also home to several varieties of Lizards, Skinks, and Snakes. The non-venomous Black Rat Snake, Garter Snake, and Southern Ringneck Snake keep the other reptiles from over populating the area.
Insects Insects make up the largest group of living organisms on the trail. Insects that may be seen in and around the pond include the Diving Beetle, Water Flea, Water Scorpion, Water Mite, Water Boatman, Giant Water Bug, Mosquito Larvae, Water Striders, Dragonfly, Mayfly, and Damselfly.
Aquatic Plants The aquatic life of the pond also includes plants. The Water Iris and Arrow Plant can be seen blooming in the spring. The Bald Cypress tree is one of few trees that can grow in the water and not die from lack of oxygen. The ‘knees’ can be seen from the far side of the trail. Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) and Itea Virginica (Virginia Sweetspire) grow on the banks of the pond.
Sculpture
Of special interest on the trail is a grouping of concrete forms called “Ruins and Rituals” created by artist Beverly Buchanan. She donated the environmental sculpture to the Museum in 1979, intending for visitors to walk around it and regard it from different viewpoints under different conditions of light and shadows.

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