Places We Protect

Harvell and Pellerree Jackson Sandhills


A gopher tortoise navigates its way along the forest floor.
Gopher Tortoise A gopher tortoise navigates its way along the forest floor. © Karine Aigner

Rare sand-dune like habitats are home to rarely-found species.



These surprising sand dune-like habitats about 40 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico are still in relatively pristine condition. Donated to TNC in 2006, the 108-acre site was a river or coastline millions of years ago, according to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

Some very uncommon plants and animals, including those found only on relic barrier islands, are found here, including the following:


  • Scarlet basil (Calamintha coccinea): Fragrant with red flowers visited by hummingbirds and butterflies
  • Beach rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides): Aromatic, evergreen shrub providing food for birds, black bear, harvester ants and mice (but not human cooking). It also provides nesting sites for northern cardinal, grey catbird, yellow-rumped warbler, common yellowthroat and mourning dove. 
  • Gulf rockrose (Helianthemum arenicola): Also called frostweed; it exudes sap in fall that forms ice crystals around the plant stem
  • Gopher apple (Licania michauxii): Commonly eaten by gopher tortoises and other small animals
  • Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia stricta): Its yellow flowers are visited by insects and hummingbirds 
  • Sandhill beakrush (Rhynchospora sp.)
  • Wire sedge (Carex tenax)
  • Ground lichens of various species: Lichens collect nitrogen from the air and put it back into the soil where it can be used by plants
  • Turkey oak (Quercus laevis): named for three-lobed leaves resembling a turkey's foot; acorns are important food source for black bear, white-tailed deer, northern bobwhite and wild turkey
  • Golden aster (Chrysopsis scabrella): Flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies and birds
  • Pitcher plants


  • Harvester ants: Gather seeds as food; prefer to nest in desert-like habitat
  • Gulf fritillary (Agraulis vanillae): Striking, bright orange butterfly; migrating butterflies are sometimes seen over the Gulf of Mexico
  • Gopher tortoise
  • Eastern diamond-backed rattlesnake
  • Fence lizard
  • Glass lizard
  • Black pinesnake
  • Coral snake
  • Six-lined racerunners
  • Oldfield mice

Cactus Moths

The site is one of 50 sites participating in the Cactus Moth Early Detection and Reporting Network coordinated by the U.S. Geographical Service and Mississippi State University (MSU) Cactus moth is an invasive non-native species that threatens all 63 species of prickly pear cactus in the United States. Participating sites provide the opportunity to detect spread of the cactus moth early so that prompt eradication efforts can be implemented. The University of Southern Mississippi, MSU and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science have expressed an interest in conducting research at the site.



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