Persimmon Gully Preserve is one of the best remaining longleaf pine savannas in southwest Louisiana. The site harbors ancient longleaf pines (some over 300 years old), rare Bachman's and Henslow's sparrows, as well as three rare plants (punctate blazing star, chaetopappa daisy, and silveus dropseed). A rare landscape feature, saline barrens, adds further importance to this wetland site. The nearby Houston River floodplain is considered among the most important stopover areas for trans-Gulf migrant birds.
The preserve is not open for public visitation.
The preserve is located in Calcasieu Parish, about 25 miles northwest of Lake Charles, LA.
The Conservancy selected this site for its location within the flatwoods region of the West Gulf Coastal Plain, the presence of important native species and plant communities, and its potential for longleaf savanna restoration.
The longleaf pine flatwoods region of the West Gulf Coastal Plain is an extensive relatively flat area in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas. The historic dominant vegetation was a longleaf pine flatwood/savanna complex, in which longleaf pine flatwood forests on low ridges and mima mounds and wet savannas on inter-mound swales and other depressions formed a complex mosaic. This vegetation remains in small portions of the region today. Pine savannas are essentially wet grassland communities with scattered trees and shrubs. The typically dense, herbaceous groundcover is dominated by grasses and sedges, varying in composition depending on soil, hydrologic factors, and fire history.
Longleaf pine savannas are among the most diverse and most threatened habitats in North America, with only 1 to 5% of the original acreage estimated to remain. Although relatively large areas of West Gulf Coastal Plain upland longleaf pine forests have been protected mainly on federal lands, there are virtually no flatwood sites in public ownership or under conservation management. Because continued loss of longleaf pine habitat is greatest in the flatwoods region, conservation efforts are most needed in that area.
Longleaf pine flatwood savannas continue to decline at an alarming rate and are highly vulnerable if current trends continue. Threats include conversion to pastures and other agricultural endeavors, conversion to off-site loblolly or slash pine plantations, clearing for commercial and residential development, alteration of the natural fire regime, and drainage, among others. Longleaf pine savannas and other associated wetland communities are considered important for floodwater retention, groundwater recharge, maintenance of water quality, habitat for a myriad of wildlife species and several rare plant species, and other ecological and societal benefits.
The Conservancy is working to restore native longleaf pine savanna habitat on the preserve through removal of off-site pines, reforestation operations, prescribed burning, and control of invasive species. On a broader scale, our key conservation strategy calls for working with nearby landowners for protection of at least 10,000 acres in this landscape to ensure long-term viability of the savanna habitat and the many associated species it supports.