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Pennsylvania

Nottingham Serpentine Barrens


Why You Should Visit
The Nottingham Serpentine Barrens in Nottingham County Park is part of the State-Line Serpentine Barrens, the largest occurrence of serpentine barrens in the eastern United States.  Serpentine soils at Nottingham are so low in essential nutrients and so high in metals toxic to many plants, including nickel and chromium, that most ordinary plants don't grow in the serpentine barrens. The sunbaked conditions on bare serpentine rock and gravel make the sites islands of desert-like habitat for rare, unusual plant species that are specially adapted to withstand heat and drought.

Location
Chester County

Size
630 acres

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The Nature Conservancy has a management agreement with Nottingham County Park to restore and manage 630 acres of this globally rare community of plants. As part of the agreement, the park is the site of much of the Conservancy's research on prescribed fire, grazing and other methods how to best maintain and restore the unusual features of the barrens.

What to See: Plants
The prairie and savanna communities in the serpentine barrens are fire-maintained. The dominant plants — prairie grasses and pitch pines — have adaptations that allow them to live through and prosper from fires. After a fire burns away old leaves, the plants sprout new leaves quickly and their seeds are stimulated to germinate. Prairie grasses and pitch pines need periodic fire to wipe out the forest and old-field plants that begin to invade the barrens when fire is suppressed.

The rare flowers and plants, rock formations, and abandoned quarries can be seen from eight miles of horseback riding and hiking trails in the pitch pine forest of the serpentine barrens. The park also contains picnic pavilions with cooking grills, a one-mile fitness trail, fishing, a horse show ring, and playgrounds. Many of the facilities are accessible to the handicapped.

Nottingham County Park is open from 8 a.m. to dusk, seven days a week. A detailed calendar of events is available by calling the park office at (610) 932-2589 or writing to Nottingham County Park, 150 Park Road, Nottingham, PA 19362. If you would like to lend a hand with Conservancy involvement at the park, consult our Volunteer Workdays page for currently scheduled activities.

Directions

From U.S. Route 1 Bypass:

  • Take the Route 272 Nottingham exit, turn left at the stop sign, and travel ¼ mile to Herr Drive
  • Turn right and continue to the stop sign
  • Turn right and follow signs to the park, crossing the Route 1 overpass and proceeding approximately one mile. The park entrance is on the left.
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