Visit to a Plant Conservation Preserve

Did you know that Butner, NC sits on some rare rock? Diabase rock has a fairly high pH and lies close to the surface; it’s often quarried as gravel, and that’s why Sunrock operates a quarry there. Most of the Piedmont has acidic soil (low pH), so that rare rock has uncommon plants for this area that grow over it.

In May, I went on my first field trip with the Margaret Reid Chapter of the North Carolina Native Plant Society to Butner Cedar Glade, which is a Plant Conservation Preserve. There are 24 of these in NC to conserve rare native-plant habitat. They are managed by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and access is by permit only. Butner Cedar Glade is on a diabase-rock area with a thin layer of soil;  in places, the rock is so close to the surface that a survey flag could not be stuck in the ground.

We wandered through the area on a planned route with many side trips when someone said, “Oh, look!”. Over the course of two hours, we identified, admired, and photographed unusual plants across five acres of rock and red cedars.

Here are some plants for which I managed to get names; I tried to ensure that they are accurate, but feel free to suggest other names. And yes, I know I need a better camera.

Climbing milkweed: I had no idea that there were milkweeds like this, with the large heart-shaped leaves and single dark flowers! I think these are two different species, but the discussion was that they are so similar, only an expert could tell the difference.

Fragrant sumac: It looks a lot like poison ivy, but isn’t toxic. Notice the toothy margins that differ from ivy.

Rhus aromatica, Fragrant sumac
Rhus aromatica, Fragrant sumac

Downy wood mint, hairy wild petunia, and wild glade quinine – a large patch!

This moss was in large patches and a lovely light green.

unknown moss
unknown moss

False aloe: Who would have though an agave-like plant would be native to the Piedmont!

Manfreda virginica, False aloe
Manfreda virginica, False aloe

Read more about NC Plant Conservation Preserves here.

(21 May 2017)

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