As you walk from a forested ridge down into the Piedmont seepage bog (one of the last of its kind), the vegetation around you shifts dramatically. Black Ankle Preserve is an extraordinary place where plants typical of the mountains and the coastal plain coexist within feet of each other in the Piedmont. The terrain change is at times too subtle to notice, but the plants tell the story.
INTO THE FIELD
Brenda Wichmann, Conservation Coordinator and botanist with the North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and Dr. Alexander Krings, Assistant Professor at NC State University and Director of the Vascular Plant Herbarium, ventured into Black Ankle Preserve for a springtime survey this May.
It is the combination of longleaf pine uplands and its rare hillside seepage bog that makes Black Ankle so unique and valuable. Managing this preserve is a part of our larger longleaf pine resiliency strategy, which you can learn about through our Longleaf Pine Road Map.
PITCHER PLANT POPULATIONS
Black Ankle is well-known for its thriving pitcher plant populations. This is one of few places where you can find Catesby’s Pitcher plant, Sarracenia x catesbaei. Catesby's Pitcher plant (pictured right) is a hybrid between the the Yellow Pitcherplant, Sarracenia flava (left) and the Purple Pitcherplant, Sarracenia rubra (center). All three occur together at the preserve and are components of the unique hillside seepage bog plant community. This rare community occurs only in the Uwharrie Mountains in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Plant Ecologists have determined that the world's best example of this globally imperiled plant community occurs at Black Ankle Preserve.
PITCHER PLANT FLOWER
A major perk of seeing pitcher plants in the spring is getting to enjoy their wily flowers!
Black Ankle Preserve is full of wildflowers of all colors and sizes during the warmer months. This Pogonia ophioglossoides, rose pogonia or snakemouth, is one of several showy terrestrial orchids commonly found in the savannas of North Carolina's Coastal Plain. Pogonia is also found in the Southern Appalachian Bogs of North Carolina's mountains.
Tephrosia virginiana, Virginia Goat's-rue is a perennial herb found more or less throughout the state and eastern U.S. It is a typical component of the sandhill's longleaf pine ecosystem.
Black Ankle is home to a Lindera subcoriacea. A federal species of concern (FSC) and state threatened plant, this bog spicebush is one of few occurrences found outside the sandhills. Found in 11 counties, most populations are centered around Southern Pines and Fort Bragg. Three populations are known to be in the Piedmont and two populations in the Uwharrie mountains, all having very small populations with few individuals.
Fothergilla major, mountain witchalder, is rare throughout its range of five southeastern states with a somewhat limited range and number of known occurrences. This makes it vulnerable to land-use conversion, habitat fragmentation, and forest management practices.
WATCH YOUR STEP!
We stumbled upon this black snake later in the day. Its sluggish behavior likely due to a combination of the warm weather and a recently caught meal. We spotted the snake mid-stride upland of the Piedmont seepage bog.
KEYING IN THE FIELD
Making good use of the web-based plant identification tool Rare Plants of North Carolina, created by Dr. Kings and colleagues at North Carolina State University. Brenda and Dr. Krings were caught on camera keying Sisyrinchium on their way back to the car.
Our Chapter is working to restore the preserve to its historic condition by conducting controlled burns and planting longleaf pine seedlings grown from local seed sources. Because of its fragile nature, this preserve is not open to the public. If you are interested in experiencing the beauty of longleaf pine savannas and seeing pitcher plants up-close, we invite you to visit our Green Swamp Preserve.