Sweetgrass found at St. Stephen Powerhouse gives local artists new option, new life

Sweetgrass found in St. Stephen gives local artists new option, new life

ST. STEPHEN, SC (WCSC) - Lowcountry sweetgrass basket artists are running out of options.

Many say it's getting harder to find sweetgrass, or when they do, it's nearly impossible to gain access.

The plant typically grows behind sand dunes along the coast, but recent developments on the waterfront property have destroyed much of the supply.

"Many of the areas where the plant grows are behind gates now," said Joe Moran, a biologist with the Charleston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The group hosted its Inaugural Sweetgrass Pulling Day for members of a local heritage group, the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival Association (SCAFA).

The Corps discovered over an acre of the plant growing naturally at the St. Stephen Powerhouse.

"They're the experts," Moran said of the artisans.

"We were going to help spread it by removing some of the trees, and the bushes, but they said absolutely do not touch it."

Instead, SCAFA members helped nurture the land, as pulling promotes new growth and healthier plants.

Said Lynette Youson, a 5th generation basket weaver, it was a worthy trade-off.

"My great grandmother taught me this over 46 years ago, and I have this love, I can't explain it," she said.  "It's just the love I have for basket weaving."

The sweetgrass also provides a covering for small mammals and birds.  The plants growing at the St. Stephen Powerhouse are protected as part of a designated South Carolina Wildlife Management Area.

Copyright WCSC 2014.  All rights reserved.