Mancke talks about a green passion fruit. (Photos by Noah Watson)
Rudy Mancke, a natural scientist at USC, said dry weather and rising temperatures are expected to cause unique behaviors among the area’s plants and animals this fall.
Mancke – a walking Farmer’s Almanac – shares his seasonal predictions quarterly for what residents can expect from nature.
He predicts that this fall, the Southeast will see an abundance of soft fruits, especially persimmons and muscadines, and an increase of natively western hummingbirds, such as the Broad-tailed hummingbird, traveling east.
Mancke times his presentations to coincide with each equinox and solstice. Tuesday, he presented his “Nature of Fall” address in advance of Thursday’s autumnal equinox.
The event on the Horseshoe at the University of South Carolina doubled as a show and tell. Audience members brought objects, such as preserved insects, dead animal skulls, and fruits and berries they had found in nature to ask questions about and, sometimes, for Mancke to identify.
“We’ve got people who normally come to these things who are savvy,” Mancke said. “They watch birds. They watch butterflies. They have gardens that attract insects. They know what they’re talking about. They show me things that I would not have seen without them.”
Mancke has been taking notes on what he sees in nature since the 1960s. He also co-hosted a nationally televised educational TV show called NatureScene for 25 years with Jim Welch.
Mancke and Welch traveled to a different location every episode and described the nature there. They went all over the nation and — eventually — the world, doing episodes in Russia and Ukraine, before Mancke moved to USC.
Bailey Parker, a Saluda River Walk park ranger, came to the event with a skull in a box hoping Mancke could help identify it for her. She said meeting Mancke was surreal because she’s been a fan of him since NatureScene.
“I watched him all the time as a kid growing up,” Parker said. “He’s one of my heroes. Working as a park ranger, I get to share my love and enthusiasm for nature. … He’s a huge inspiration for that.”
Lacy Burnette, a doctoral student in environmental health science at USC and a former student of Mancke’s, came to the event to support her mentor. He helped her find direction in her education, she said.
“Everything he talks about is just appreciating nature, looking at it, appreciating it, and trying to understand it,” Burnette said. “I’ve taken a lot from that.”