Pine savanna at Virginia's Piney Grove Preserve.
Piney Grove Pine savanna at Virginia's Piney Grove Preserve. © Robert B. Clontz / TNC

Places We Protect

Piney Grove Preserve

Virginia

Restoring pine savannas and protecting Virginia's rarest bird, the red-cockaded woodpecker.

COVID-19 UPDATE (June 3, 2020)

TNC’s public preserves in Virginia remain open. We ask all visitors to observe our preserve access guidelines and to follow current health and safety precautions, including guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), including maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others (social distancing).

Parking may be limited at many of our preserves. If you choose to visit a preserve, if possible, please visit outside of peak times (11 a.m. through 4 p.m.) to reduce overcrowding in parking areas and on trails. If parking areas are full, please plan to return to the preserve another day.

Thank you for helping us in our efforts to protect our visitors’ health and well-being.


 

Piney Grove Preserve harbors one of Virginia's last breeding populations of red-cockaded woodpeckers and the northernmost population in the U.S. Listed as endangered in 1970, this charismatic black-and-white woopecker gets its name from a barely visible speck of red on each side of the male's cap.

Nesting exclusively in live pine trees, the bird requires mature trees with soft heartwood for excavating nest cavities. Red-cockaded woodpeckers once numbered in the hundreds of thousands throughout the Southeast and up into New Jersey, but the loss of old-growth pine habitat led to a dramatic decline.

What TNC is Doing

At Piney Grove and all along the Virginia Pinelands, we work to conserve southeastern Virginia’s historic loblolly and longleaf pine forests and the variety of life they support.

TNC acquired the first tract for the preserve in 1998 from the Hancock Timber Resource Group, and several additional purchases brought Piney Grove to its current size. 

Beginning in 2001, red-cockaded woodpeckers captured from stable populations in the Carolinas were released at Piney Grove to boost the number of breeding colonies.

Red-cockaded woodpeckers in Virginia had a record-breaking breeding season in 2019, taking another step along their path to recovery. The population included a record 18 breeding groups for the second consecutive year, a number not documented since the 1970s. 14 of those breeding groups were recorded in Piney Grove by William and Mary's Center for Conservation Biology

By investing in our forest restoration efforts, TNC supporters have helped us to enhance habitat and expand the preserve's breeding groups of red-cockaded woodpeckers.

Protecting and restoring Piney Grove's special resources require active management. To maintain and expand the pine-savanna habitat upon which the red-cockaded woodpecker and myriad other species depend, we conduct frequent prescribed burns. Our science staff works closely with state and federal agencies and highly trained volunteers to implement safe, effective fire management.

Public access to Piney Grove is available via the Constance Darden Nature Trail, which offers an easy 0.3-mile walk.  The trail is open daily, February through October. To ensure visitor safety, the trail is closed November through January due to hunting in the vicinity.

Download our interpretive brochure and map (pdf) to bring along on your next visit.  The trail is ADA accessible; the observation deck at the end of the trail is not.

The gateway to Piney Grove Preserve is named in honor of the late Constance Darden, a devoted conservationist and philanthropist, and made possible by a generous gift from the Darden family.

What to See: Plants

Old-growth pine savanna and two rare plant species: seymeria and Carolina peatmoss.

What to See: Animals

In addition to the red-cockaded woodpecker, Piney Grove is home to many other birds and the state-rare fox squirrel.

Trees in an open pine savanna
Piney Grove Preserve
Piney Grove Preserve provides habitat for the northernmost population of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

Piney Grove Preserve Public access to Piney Grove is available via the ADA-accessible Constance Darden Nature Trail.

Resources: Maps & Trail Guides