While many of the natural communities dependent upon Georgia’s once-dominant longleaf pine forests have vanished, some resilient plants have managed to hang on despite the loss of habitat. The Nature Conservancy’s 20-acre Dry Creek Swamp Preserve in Worth County, Georgia, protects just such a gem, the rare Cooley meadowrue.
Although small, the preserve is a cornerstone of the surrounding Worth/Colquitt Counties ecological site, which spans 270,000 acres and contains some of the last remaining longleaf pine stands in Georgia. The preserve also contains a beautiful cypress-gum swamp, where the land slowly rises as the vegetation changes to hardwood bottomlands.
The Conservancy is working hard to determine best practices for saving the Cooley meadowrue—found in only six other locations in Georgia—as well as other ecologically significant species on the preserve.
But despite man’s best intentions, nature is always unpredictable. A devastating tornado that swept through the preserve in the spring of 2007 left a large portion of the property badly degraded. While Dry Creek Swamp would benefit from a careful program of prescribed fire, the preserve’s small size and proximity to busy roads make controlled burns difficult.
Regardless, the Conservancy and partners are investing in other land-management tools, including manually reducing wildfire fuel loads, controlling invasive woody species, and stimulating the flowering of native herbaceous vegetation, which together paint a bright future for Dry Creek Swamp Preserve.