Northern blazing star in bloom at Kennebunk Plains.
Kennebunk Plains Northern blazing star in bloom at Kennebunk Plains. © Tim Paul/The Nature Conservancy

Places We Protect

Kennebunk Plains

Maine

An ecologically important grassland and pine barrens—managed with fire.

The grasslands are home to several species of birds that are rare or endangered in Maine, including grasshopper sparrows, upland sandpipers, vesper sparrows and horned larks. In late summer, the plains are painted purple by the spectacular blooms of the northern blazing star, which occurs nowhere else in Maine. The population of this plant at Kennebunk Plains is the largest in the world. Other common plants on the preserve include lowbush blueberries, poverty grass and little bluestem. One of only two known populations of black racer snakes in the state also makes the plains its home.

Kennebunk Plains is managed with controlled burns implemented by trained Conservancy and partner staff. The flora and fauna of the Kennebunk Plains is dominated by fire tolerant plant species that are well-adapted to the nutrient poor soils on site and that respond favorably to periodic fire. Burning maintains the grassland community necessary for nesting habitat for grassland birds. Grasslands and shrublands are ephemeral in the New England landscape, and without burning the grasslands will become invaded with pitch pine, gray birch, red oak, white pine, and pin cherry. Fire creates a change in vegetative structure and composition, creating new openings and initiating a nutrient release that increases food availability for many species. Carefully controlled fires are necessary for the health of the entire grassland ecosystem.

Hours
Dawn to Dusk

Conditions
Trails are located on old sand roads and are generally flat to gently rolling.

Preserve Guidelines
To learn more about the logic behind these rules, please read our complete list of preserve use policies.

  • Foot traffic only
  • Because the rare birds nest on the ground, it is essential that visitors stay on the trails from late April to September
  • Respect areas marked as private
  • Berry picking is permitted after August 1. No collecting of any other plants or animals.
  • No pets
  • Carry out all litter
  • No fires, smoking or camping
Prescribed Burn See a prescribed burn to maintain habitat at Kennebunk Plains.