Many of Maryland’s natural areas have been known and studied by naturalists for decades, but Little Catoctin Highland Glades was discovered only recently—in 1989—by the Maryland Natural Heritage Program.
This preserve is located in Maryland’s smallest physiographic region, the Blue Ridge. The Blue Ridge is a narrow band of quartzite just west of Frederick that extends from the Potomac River to Pennsylvania.
One of the most significant characteristics of quartzite is that it is very resistant to weathering and erosion. With the discovery of Little Catoctin came the first state record of the mountain sandwort (Arenaria groenlandica), a delicate little flower that is more commonly found on the mountaintops of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
In the preserve, mountain sandwort grows on a rock outcrop that is large enough to break the canopy of trees and form a glade-like opening. The rocky barrens are surrounded by moist, rich woods on steep slopes.
The area is also significant for its high-quality seepage slope with many fern-draped brooks and little cascades. The forest is dominated by white and red oak, sugar and red maple, white ash, hickory, and basswood.
In the understory are flowering dogwood, witch hazel, hornbeam, amelanchier, and Virginia creeper. In the spring the forest floor abounds with spring beauties, wild lily-of-the-valley (Canada mayflower), boreal starflower, and pink lady’s slipper orchid.
This preserve encompasses 38 acres and has been protected since 1989. A transfer agreement has been reached with the Catoctin Land Trust, a local land trust, which has agreed to take over ownership and management of the preserve, including controlling the garlic mustard population.
Because of the fragile ecology of the sandwort habitat, Little Catoctin Highland Glades Preserve is only open to scientific research with prior permission from TNC. Thank you for your understanding and help in protecting this important part of Maryland's natural heritage.