Sunday, October 27, 2013

Glenn Road Prairie Wildflowers Threatened by Sidewalk Requirement

These are but a few of the 111 native species threatened by a sidewalk requirement in eastern Durham, NC. There are no pedestrians in this rural area, and no prospect for any in the future. These photos are being posted as part of an effort to either avoid construction of a "sidewalk to nowhere" or route the sidewalk around this unusually rich remnant of rare piedmont prairie habitat.

The leather flower clematis (Clematis ochroleuca) is one of the rarer wildflowers found at the Glenn Road prairie remnant, in Durham, NC. This is one of many native wildflower species there that is found nowhere else in Durham's Ellerbe Creek watershed. The boulder in the photo is evidence of the diabase rock from which this prairie's special soil was formed.
The seed pods of the leatherflower clematis look like this. Unlike the clematis commonly found in gardens, this species does not climb but instead stands erect, about two feet tall, and produces one flower per stem.
Here is a close-up of a very small aster, whose identity remains a mystery.
The monarch butterfly depends on the presence of milkweed in the landscape to feed its young. The Glenn Road prairie has four species of milkweed, including this butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa). A well-established plant can be very showy, producing a large disk of these long-lasting orange flowers.
Wild quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) is another Glenn Road prairie wildflower that puts on a sustained display.
Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) grows in the woods behind the prairie.

Dwarf hawthorn (Crataegus uniflora) is another native species found nowhere else in the Ellerbe watershed. In fact, in all my decades of botanizing, I had never seen it before. There are two additional species of hawthorn at the Glenn Road prairie remnant--parsley hawthorn and another species as yet unidentified.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

2007 Study of Pennsylvania Grasslands, Meadows and Savannas

Roger Latham did a 2007 study of grasslands, meadows and savannas in Pennsylvania. This would not be piedmont prairie, but it would be interesting to compare. The first couple paragraphs of the executive summary are below. My memory from hearing him speak back then was that he had traveled throughout the state searching for remnants, many of which were not well cared for.

"Grasslands, meadows, and savannas(GMS)share two distinctions with wetlands: they are
crucial for biodiversity conservation out of proportion to theirsmall total area and they declined
severely during the twentieth century.Recognition of their importance lags behind that of
wetlands, but is making steady gains. In Pennsylvania, GMS are identified as a high priority for
restoration, reclamation, and management by the state’s Wildlife Action Plan. Worldwide,
temperate grasslands,savannas, and shrublands are of acute conservation concern. The ratio of
converted (developed) to protected land isten to one in, five times higher than even the
beleaguered tropical rainforest. Only 4.6% of the land in temperate grassland,savanna and
shrubland has been protected to date while 45.8% has already been destroyed. The figures are
even more dismal for Pennsylvania, where native GMS have been under extreme pressure for
more than 300 years and most were converted long ago to agricultural, residential, commercial,
and other uses.

Twentieth-century changes in agricultural practices resulted in dramatic declines of most
grassland birds and other grassland-dependent wildlife in Pennsylvania and other eastern states.
The remaining hotspotsfor grassland plantspecies, as well asfor the butterflies, moths, and
other insectsthat are dependent on them, are far less extensive than even the declining habitats
for grassland birds."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rosa carolina

Carolina roses are commonly found growing on the diabase soils of Glennstone Nature Preserve in full sun.


Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is an understory tree that is frequently found growing on the diabase soils conducive to prairie.

Native and Exotic Bushclovers at Glennstone

Found nowhere else in the Ellerbe Creek watershed, the Round-Headed Bushclover (Lespedeza capitata) is a special plant species in the Glennstone Preserve. Needing lots of sunlight to prosper, it grows in clearings and especially along the sewer line right of way, which is a utilitarian name for a very attractive ribbon of grasses and wildflowers that threats through the preserve. The right of way is kept free of trees to allow access for maintenance of the sewer line buried beneath.

The large seeds of Round-Headed Bushclover are an important food for quail, wild turkey and mourning doves.

In the fourth photo you can see seeds from three kinds of bushclover at Glennstone. The largest, upper left in the photo, are from the round-headed bushclover. The next largest are from Slender Bushclover (Lespedeza virginica), which is also a native.

The smallest seeds in the photo are from a highly invasive exotic called Sericea Lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata). Originally planted by the Dept. of Transportation for erosion control, it is now considered a noxious weed in 46 states. Though its seeds were thought to be good for wildlife, it is now believed that its small seeds move through birds undigested.

The exotic lespedeza has been invading the Glennstone Preserve along the sewer line, and is aggressive enough to completely displace the native bushclovers that wildlife need for food. ECWA has been working to eradicate this noxious weed from the preserve before it does more damage. The exotic lespedeza has a white flower, which is useful in distinguishing it from the pink-flowered native Slender Bushclover (last photo).

More information about the Round-Headed Bushclover can be found at

Sun-Loving Prairie Wildflowers of Glennstone

Walking along the trails of ECWA's nature preserve at Glennstone, downstream from Durham, out towards Falls Lake, you will find many wildflowers that still flourish where trees have yet to cast their shadow. In the first photo is Carolina rose (Rosa carolina), a low-growing rose common at Glennstone. My most memorable encounter with this flower was in the middle of a very hot day when the landscape had already been parched by severe drought. Fortunately, I "stopped to smell the roses", and was rewarded by a fragrance sweet and soft, refreshing as a cool drink after a long trek through the desert.

Snowdrops, a kind of primrose, is another bright flower in May.

The last photo is of Round-Headed Bushclover, the native wildflower at Glennstone that I have encountered growing nowhere else in all my travels. It's discussed in a previous post on this website.