Cherry Hill Barrens
This map shows a generalized landscape of the Cherry Hill Barrens and some of its unique natural landmarks. Click on the titles to learn more about the natural landmarks of the Cherry Hill Barrens.
Information was sourced from: Abrahamson, Ilana. Fire Effects Information System (FEIS). Retrieved from https://www.feis-crs.org/feis/.
Cherry Hill Barrens Natural Landmarks
Bare gravel areas are found frequently throughout the serpentine grassland/savannah environment. The paucity of vegetation and the constant exposure to heat and sun create a desert-like microclimate within the barrens. As such, these areas will host only the most heat and drought adapted plant species.
Occurring in central and eastern United States, blackjack oak is small to medium size and is well known in savannas and forests adjacent to grasslands. The leaves on a blackjack oak are three-lobed, can sometimes have a flat tip, and have a leathery texture. This species will see an increase in the number of saplings when subject to recurring fires every 6-8 years and is one that can grow in dry and nutrient poor soil.
Bracken fern is a common herbaceous plant on serpentine barrens. Leaves of bracken fern can range from 1-10 feet long and the blades of the leaves are divided into single leaflets called pinna. Due to its effective stomatal control, bracken fern can grow in various soil types but germinates well on alkaline soil and is known as a postfire colonizer.
Eastern Red Cedar
Native to the eastern United States and Canada, eastern red cedars can be invasive to serpentine barrens. Eastern red cedars cannot survive frequent fires; however, if not suppressed, this transitional forest species can create a closed canopy forest in as little as 30 years. Prescribed burns are a well-accepted method to control this species from overtaking the open grasslands. Efforts to reduce eastern red cedars in serpentine barrens also call for cut and removal of all saplings and small trees as they can become a hazard during prescribed burns.
Common to the east coast, the thorny greenbrier can be classified by its round leaves and thrives in various plant communities. It is commonly found alongside sassafras and bracken fern. On serpentine barrens, it can form impenetrable thickets. Repeated burning and brush cutting will inhibit greenbrier growth.
Indian grass is a warm season grass that grows short and is yellow or golden in color and can be found commonly alongside big bluestem grass and little bluestem grass. It has grayish, hairy branches and grows upright. Late spring burning is best for Indian grass production; and if burned annually, Indian grass will increase in frequency.
Little Bluestem Grass
Sprouting in the warm season, little bluestem grass is bunchgrass that appears blue-green during warmer months and later turns mahogany-red with white at maturity. Little bluestem grass adapts well to fires in the spring and fall and has an increased root growth after fire. It is recurring in ecosystems that frequent fire and can often be found alongside Indian grass.
Found in the eastern and central United States, post oak is a common tree in savannas and forests adjacent to grasslands. Identified by its unique leaf shape, post oaks are slow growing and live between 300-400 years. Post oak is less tolerant to fire than blackjack oak but will not be present if fire is infrequent or absent.
On drier sites, like serpentine barrens, sassafras is shrub-like and can reach a maximum of 40 feet. The distinctive leaves of sassafras can be entire, one-lobed, or two-lobbed. Sassafras is a part of the savannah environment on the barrens, and prescribed burns help sassafras trees grow as they help eliminate closed canopies. Without fire or other disturbances to reduce these closed canopies, sassafras numbers decrease.
Stand of Virginia Pines
Virginia pines are an evergreen species that live between 65-90 years on average and are medium in size with two-needle pines. The bark on this species is thin, thus the tree is not well adapted to survive fires. However, it is a colonizer of recently burned sites and will quickly contribute to a closed tree canopy on undisturbed serpentine barrens.
Because of the characteristic soil layer, exposed serpentinite bedrock is often found on serpentine barrens outcrops. Serpentine, a metamorphic rock, is derived from rocks that were once a part of the ocean floor. Ultramafic rock from the ocean crust was uplifted and scraped onto the continental crust during tectonic plate collision 450,000,000 years ago. When exposed to water and low temperatures, the ultramafic rock altered to serpentinite. Serpentinite creates soil that is high in magnesium and low in essential nutrients.