#1 Blue Ridge Serpentine Barrens

 Buck Creek Serpentine Barren, Blue Ridge Mountains Ecoregion, Clay Co., North Carolina. Credit: Alan Cressler.

Buck Creek Serpentine Barren, Blue Ridge Mountains Ecoregion, Clay Co., North Carolina. Credit: Alan Cressler.

To highlight the incredible diversity of Southeastern grasslands, SGI will feature a different grassland system each day, from now until the New Year.

Let's get this party started by introducing what may be one of the rarest of all grassland types in the world:

#1. Blue Ridge Mountains Serpentine Barrens.

This community is represented by just a couple of examples in western North Carolina with one of these, Buck Creek Barrens, Clay Co., NC being of exceptional quality.

This mountainside grassland is located in the Nantahala National Forest between the towns of Franklin and Hayesville at approximately 3,000 ft elevation. The heavy metals in the soil resulting from the underlying serpentine rock combined with shallow soils, make these steep mountainsides more suitable to open woodlands and grassy barrens instead of forests.

Two plant species, Rhiannon's Aster and the Buck Creek Ragwort, are found only here and nowhere else in the world. The site is home to an incredible array of species more typically found in open prairies. Here, big bluestem, little bluestem, switchgrass, and Indian grass are dominant but prairie dropseed is also abundant. Numerous rare species are found here, including several that are far removed from their main territory.

This site is currently being managed by the US Forest Service with prescribed fire.

For more photos of this incredible barren, check out Alan Cressler's FLICKR page: https://www.flickr.com/…/alan_cres…/albums/72157627172534334