Places We Protect

Fernbrook Natural Area


A low angle view from the forest floor looking up at the underside of a large pinkish mushroom.  The ground is covered in leaves. Thick tree trunks are seen in the background.
Fernbrook mushroom Fernbrook Preserve is excellent example of a southern Piedmont forest in varying stages of succession. © Nancy Carey

An excellent example of a southern Piedmont forest in varying stages of succession.



George and Jacintha Paschal donated the 63-acre tract in 1963 as a land gift and requested that it be preserved in its natural state.

Prior to 1963, Fernbrook was used for agriculture, cattle and timber. For the first time since the original virgin timber was cut, the forest is being allowed to "complete" succession into a mature stand, paralleling the Shenandoah National Park, where the woodland is evolving to resemble pre-Colonial forest.

Upland hardwoods include red oak, yellow poplar, hickory, black gum, red maple, American beech, and other species with scattered shortleaf and Virginia pine. 

Bottomland hardwoods include sycamore, ash, hackberry, red maple, black walnut and yellow poplar.

The small streams and springs that run through the natural area support a variety of plant species. Spotted loe-pye-weed, Virginia knotweed, partridge pea, dwarf Saint-John's-wort, blue phlox and a host of other wildflowers may be found blooming at Fernbrook at various times of the year. There are also several uncommon species, such as the southern adder's tongue. 

Birds sighted here include the pileated woodpecker, ovenbird, scarlet tanager, ruby-throated hummingbird, and the red-tailed hawk. Bobcats have been known to wander through the area.

Fernbrook is a part of the Old Growth Forest Network, a national network dedicated to protecting old-growth and mature native forests in the US for the benefits they provide to people and nature.

Fernbrook is intended to be used as a true “natural area” for study and observation, rather than a recreational destination. It is accessible to the public with prior permission. Contact TNC at 434-951-0579 for information about visiting the preserve.


Limited Access

Contact TNC at 434-951-0579 for information about visiting this preserve.


Albemarle County, VA

Map with marker: Hybrid road and topographical map showing an orange pointer centered north-east of Charlottesville, VA.


Fernbrook Natural Area is a part of the Old Growth Forest Network.


63 acres

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Fernbrook Flora and Fungi

Fernbrook supports a variety of plant species. Spotted Joe-Pye-weed, Virginia knotweed, partridge pea, dwarf Saint-John's-wort, blue phlox and a host of other wildflowers may be found at various times of the year. There are also several uncommon species, such as the southern adder's tongue.

Nine delicate purple flowers bloom on thin stems growing from a slender central stalk.
A large fan shaped mushroom with multiple fanned lobes striped in striking shades of brown and purple.
View looking up under the gilled caps of a cluster of six white mushrooms.
A small green and cream colored snail with an intricately marked shell creeps next to an open mouth, yellow mushroom.
Two round green leaves shelter a small numb that will grow into a vertical stalk with a small white flower.
Wide, flat fungi grow on a tree. Their deep green center fades to white at the edge.
Small white flowers with delicate paddle shaped petals.
A row of open mouthed urn shaped mushrooms grow underneath a fallen log in a forest.
View looking down into the open "mouths" of a cluster of brown urn shaped mushrooms.
The end of a green fern curves into a ball. The tops of other curved head ferns are just visible at the bottom of the photo.
A sign at a trail head reads Fernbrook Natural Area.
Fernbrook Natural Area George and Jacintha Paschal donated the 63-acre tract in 1963 as a land gift and requested that it be preserved in its natural state. © Daniel White

Volunteer Spotlight

Growing up on a Trail

Volunteer Preserve Steward Emma Weaver shares her memories of exploring Fernbrook as a child and how connecting with nature has enriched her relationships with family.

Fernbrook Natural Area has provided my family with many irreplaceable memories. Beginning as an infant in a backpack carrier, my parents hiked the two-mile trail that was conveniently located three minutes from our home. The trail leads to a beautiful overlook of the north fork of the Rivanna River where we have seen belted kingfishers, bald eagles, great blue herons and so many more bird species.

Throughout our childhood, my sister and I would challenge our parents to competitions of who could reach the rock outcrop the fastest by traveling opposite ways around the lollipop trail–we usually won. This trail has always been a staple for our family as it is the perfect place to escape to while taking a break in our day. We have noticed numerous changes in the ecosystem such as the great emergence of American beech trees, many wildflower and orchid species and the different types of wildlife utilizing the preserve.

When I reached age 17, I became interested in volunteering for The Nature Conservancy. I wanted to contribute to preserving the area that had become so special to me. My father, Tex Weaver, was already volunteering as a Preserve Steward and encouraged me to do the same. We always monitored together and had the responsibilities of ensuring that the trails maintained the pristine condition that I grew up experiencing as well as noticing any alarming activity or unique species that we came across. My dad is a Virginia Master Naturalist, which brought him to continuously point out the special features along the trail such as rattlesnake plantain or showy orchis. Ultimately, these hikes are what created my positive affinity for nature.

When I started my undergraduate studies at Virginia Tech, my outdoor experiences throughout my life led me to study Wildlife Conservation. This provided me with a diverse curriculum ranging from dendrology (the study of trees) to wildlife field techniques which gave me experience in identification, tracking and handling of wildlife. Now, every time that I hike with my dad, I am able to show him different characteristics that he may not have otherwise noticed such as finding a decaying log and turning it over to find red-backed salamanders or pointing out habitat qualities that are appropriate for different species. In 2021 I began extending my volunteer work as a Preserve Steward to Falls Ridge Preserve in Blacksburg. Each time I visit, I take pictures of interesting features to share with my dad as I know that he appreciates it, and he does the same for me when he hikes at Fernbook.

These two preserves have created very significant memories for me as I have furthered a relationship with nature while spending quality time with my dad. Growing up, I always looked forward to entering the forest at Fernbrook and being outside. Today, I look forward to appreciating the various qualities of the specific ecosystems that the preserves hold while being present with the person that established my excitement about and passion for protecting wild lands and species.

A bright orange newt with five black ringed red spots.
Red Eft (Notophthalmus viridescens) the juvenile form of the Eastern newt. Fernbrook Preserve. © Nancy Carney

Get Involved

Preserve Volunteer Program

Virginia's Preserve Volunteer Community Program provides a vital service to help us maintain and monitor our public preserves across the state.

How can you get involved?

  • Community Members—become involved with a preserve without committing time to stewardship work. Receive periodic updates about the preserve and special events.
  • Preserve Stewards—visit Fernbrook at least 4 times a year to assess trail and preserve conditions and perform basic trail maintenance by removing fallen branches and overgrown vegetation.
  • Preserve Leaders—demonstrated commitment to the preserve and willingness to take on additional responsibilities like managing communication & scheduling, leading workdays and guiding naturalist hikes.

Email to learn how you can help and become a part of the program.

Download the Fernbrook Natural Area Preserve Volunteer Program handbook to learn more.

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

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