Myrtle Head Savanna is small – just 72 acres – but it is home to a number of rare plants. One of the most charismatic is the pitcher plant (Sarracenia). Three varieties of the carnivorous plant are found in the Brunswick County preserve, which is why the North American Sarracenia Conservancy financed a recent controlled burn there.
“Pitcher plants need light to thrive,” explains Sara Babin, the Nature Conservancy’s conservation coordinator in southeastern North Carolina. “Without fire disturbance, other plants out compete pitcher plants for sunlight. Fire suppression has seriously affected the pitcher plant’s habitat. We are really pleased that the North American Sarracenia Conservancy has recognized this problem and is helping restore Myrtle Head.”
Thirty-five acres were burned at Myrtle Head last month. Babin says the burn improved habitat for a number of other rare plants, including the world’s largest population of Cooley’s meadowrue, a member of the buttercup family that is on the federal endangered species list. The savanna also contains one of the largest known populations of wireleaf dropseed, which is listed as a threatened species in North Carolina.
The preserve is a healthy example of one of the most endangered communities in the Southeast, a very wet, loamy longleaf pine savanna. The fine sandy loam underlying the preserve is derived in part from an underlying layer of marl and remains wet or saturated for much of the year. Marl is a fossil-rich, relatively soft sedimentary rock with properties similar to limestone. It “sweetens” the soil above by lowering acidity, adding calcium and other minerals, and decomposes to dense, sticky clay.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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