Here in the Lowcountry, we have a culture, geography, architecture, economy and even a cuisine that is uniquely ours. Here are a few things that help make it such a unique place.
SEA OATS They look like weeds but are actually very important to our beaches and are protected by law. They help protect beaches and surrounding areas from what would otherwise be damaging winds. It also provides food and habitat for birds, small animals and insects. Yell at kids you see messing with them.
CONFEDERATE JASMINE In early spring and summer, this fast-growing vine produces clusters of small, white flowers that look like tiny pinwheels. Despite their diminutive size, the flowers pack a huge punch of sweet fragrance and can easily perfume an entire yard. Use it to cover an eyesore, such as an old shed or fence, or let it tumble down walls and terraces.
SPANISH MOSS Due to its propensity for growing in subtropical humid southern locales like the Lowcounry, Spanish Moss is often associated with Southern Gothic imagery and Deep South culture. It has been used for various purposes, including building insulation, mulch, packing material, mattress stuffing and fiber. It is a common habitat for certain spiders, bats, rat snakes and insects, and is used as nest material for birds. Your mother wouldn’t want you playing with it.
PALMETTO TREES On June 28, 1776, Charleston patriots under William Moultrie made a fort of palmetto trunks and from it defended successfully against the British in the Revolutionary War. The tree is a familiar symbol of South Carolina and is featured on the state flag, the great seal and the U.S. Mint’s bicentennial commemorative quarter. They don’t offer much shade but at least they look awesome.
KUDZU This invasive plant species is everywhere you look. It has been spreading across the South faster than it can be sprayed or mowed. Its introduction has produced devastating environmental consequences and has earned it the nickname, “The vine that ate the South.” It is is believed to have originated in Japan but we’re claiming it as our own now.
BOYKIN SPANIEL This medium-sized breed of dog was bred to hunt turkeys and ducks in swamps and marshes. It is the state dog, named after the Boykin family, who have a South Carolina town named after them as well. A few members of the Boykin family live here. The local connections make it a popular choice of breed here in the Lowcountry.
GROSS BUGS Some bugs are cute but not the ones living around here. Swarms of lovebugs look like mini-tornadoes. Palmetto Bugs grow larger than hummingbirds. Other ugly bugs living here include no-see-ums, acorn weevils, biting ants, dog ticks, salmonflies, oil beetles, assassin bugs, bark centipedes, bed bugs, mud daubers, blister beetles, horse flies, boll weevils, stink bugs, locust, Carolina mantis, coneheads and more. Most bugs here are smelly and gross.
CAROLINA MARSH TACKY This rare breed of horse developed from Spanish horses brought to the Lowcountry by Spanish explorers, settlers and traders as early as the 16th century. The horses were used by the colonists during the American Revolution, and by local residents for farm work, herding cattle and hunting throughout the breed’s history. The most famous one here is Comet at the Coastal Discovery Museum.
CAROLINA WOLF SPIDER If you come across a wolf spider, chances are you’ll think it’s poisonous simply because of the way it looks and walks. While the appearance of these spiders may seem rather foreboding, they are not inclined to bite. They flee anything larger than themselves, and generally will bite humans only if they feel threatened and are unable to escape.
GATORS If you’re going to live here, you have to get used to living around them. Gators live in lagoons and ponds all around the Lowcountry. The average female is about 8 feet long and the average male is about 11 feet long, but 14-footers are common. They are considered a keystone species here. Without them, our ecosystem would change drastically.
SHRIMP BOATS Fresh caught wild shrimp is available most of the year here. Shrimp boats are a common site in local waterways in September, October, November and December. Fishermen have taken advantage of the Lowcountry’s marshes and estuaries since the earliest settlement.
CAROLINA SHAG A partner dance done primarily to Beach Music. The basic step in Carolina Shag is a six-count, eight-step pattern danced in a slot. The rhythm is similar to six-count Swing in that it is triple step, triple step, rock step or counted as “one-and-two, three-and-four, five-six”. There are eight shag dance steps in the basic pattern. Take lessons or find a local club to get in on the fun.
TARTAN JACKETS Owning a wool tartan jacket is a bit of a status symbol in the Lowcountry. There are a few ways to get one. One way is to win the RBC Heritage, the PGA Tour golf tournament that takes place each year at Harbour Town Golf Links. Jackets are also awarded to the governor of South Carolina, the mayor of the Town of Hilton Head Island, golfers who have played in at least 20 pro-ams and board members of the Heritage Classic Foundation.
SWEETGRASS BASKETS People in the Lowcountry have been weaving these elaborate baskets for generations. They are made of bulrush, a strong yet supple marshgrass that thrives in the sandy soil of the Lowcountry. Originally used as winnowing fans to separate the rice seed from its chaff, sweetgrass baskets are regarded among the nation’s most prized cultural souvenirs. With proper care, they can last longer than you do.
PLUFF MUD This oozy, gooey, dark-brown substance is the mother sauce of all things Lowcountry. You can’t call yourself a local until you’ve sacrificed a shoe to its gooey, quicksand-like clutch. Locals also love the smell. Pat Conroy described it as the smell of the South in heat. Many visitors equate the scent to rotten eggs or soiled diapers. If you’re going to live here, you’ve got to get used to it.
THINGS LOCALS SHOULD KNOW
If you see a big red dot on the outside of a building, they sell booze there.
Real barbecue sauces have mustard in them.
Slaw is made with vinegar, not mayo.
Pink wine is acceptable for full-grown adults to drink.
Chow chow is pickled relish, not a dog breed.
Peanuts taste best boiled.
Like church? We’ve got all denominations.
Day drinking is encouraged.
They’re not crayfish or crawdads. They are crawfish.
Talking to complete strangers is encouraged.
A sandlapper is similar to a hillbilly. They just live here instead of the hills.
It’s supper, not dinner.
Asking for a Coke doesn’t mean you want an actual Coca-Cola.
There are no frogs in Frogmore Stew.
It’s not “you guys,” it’s “y’all.”
Everybody is connected to Ohio in some way.
All porch swings and screen doors must squeak.
The Weather Channel isn’t good enough. Trust random people on Facebook instead.
It is nearly impossible to tell the difference between a snow day and the apocalypse.
Turn signals are optional.
Sweet tea is the only kind of tea.
You are allowed to scold other people’s children here.
Red on black, venom lack; red on yellow, kill a fellow.
Monogramming stuff is cool.
It’s not a purse, it’s a pocketbook.
People from Virginia and above are Yankees.
It’s not a remote control, it’s a clicker.
In order of importance: SEC, ACC, Big Ten.
It’s not a shopping cart, it’s a buggy.
USC isn’t a school in Southern California.
There are at least 500 uses for bacon grease.
Tacos are always acceptable.
It’s not stuffing. It’s dressing.
We are waiting in line, not waiting online. That’s a slow internet connection.
It’s OK for a man to call a younger man “son.”
It’s OK to put an “s” on the end of any chain store name (Belks, Walmarts, Krogers, etc.).
Oddly, many like the Pittsburgh Steelers here.
Grandmother is boring. Call her something weird.
Salad doesn’t always mean healthy.
Two first names? Acceptable!
Knee babies are toddlers.
Never be aggressive. Be super passive aggressive instead.
Want to fight? Ask someone if they’re feeling froggy and see if they jump.
It doesn’t have to be pretty. It just has to work.
A person that eats a lot is a lunch puppy.
IN THE MOVIES
Feature films shot around here.
Animals and the Tollkeeper (1998)
The Big Chill (1983)
Forces of Nature (1999)
The Fugitive (1993)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
G.I. Jane (1997)
The Great Santini (1979)
The Jungle Book (1994)
Last Dance (1996)
A Perfect World (1993)
The Prince of Tides (1991)
Something to Talk About (1995)
The War (1994)
White Squall (1996)
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
Gone Fishin’ (1997)
Wild America (1997)
HILTON HEAD ISLAND
Come Away Home (2005)
The Longest Yard (1974)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Rules of Engagement (2000)
SAINT HELENA ISLAND
Daughters of the Dust (1991)
A few people you may have heard of that call (or once called) the Lowcountry home.
Ken Anderson, NFL player
Arthur Blank, businessman
Tom Berenger, actor
Pat Conroy, author
Domenico De Sole, businessman
Joe Frazier, boxer
Candice Glover, American Idol winner
Ryan Hartman, NHL player
Jazzy Jay, hip-hop disc jockey
John (aka “The Coug”) Mellencamp, musician
Mark Messier, NHL player
Duncan Sheik, musician
Stan Smith, tennis player