Part of the largest occurrence of serpentine barrens in the United States.
Located on the chain of barrens that follows the Pennsylvania and Maryland border known as the state line serpentine barrens, this 630-acre park is home to a rich display of rare plants and animals. Spring brings migrant birds and wildflowers, late summer is butterfly season, and fall foliage is a favorite for hikers as well as picnickers. Keep an eye out for about 15 species of butterflies and moths, plus various birds such as whippoorwills, bobwhite quail, and several species of owl.
Serpentine soils are so low in essential nutrients and so high in metals toxic to many plants, including nickel and chromium, that most ordinary plants don’t grow. The sunbaked conditions on bare serpentine rock and gravel make the sites islands of desert-like habitat for rare, unusual plant species that are specially adapted to withstand heat and drought.
The serpentine aster’s nearly leafless red-colored flower stalks and ground-hugging rosette help it to withstand the desert like conditions of the barrens. The round-leaved fameflower, another rare plant, grows on isolated rock exposures scattered across the southeastern United States. Like a cactus, it is a true succulent, tolerating heat and drought by storing water in stems and pads.
The Nature Conservancy, in cooperation with the Chester County Bureau of Parks and Recreation, uses management techniques such as prescribed fire and scraping (bulldozing to remove leaf litter and excess soil buildup) to restore and maintain prairie and savanna habitats in the serpentine barrens.
The barrens are beautiful, but with limited availability of modern conveniences. There is ample parking, but be prepared to walk on dirt roads and trails to the barrens sites. During warmer weather, ticks are common, and temperatures in the barrens can be as much as ten to fifteen degrees hotter than the surrounding forests.
When the migratory birds return in spring, look and listen for prairie warblers and whip-poor-wills. Wildflowers and butterflies are at their best in summer, the native warm season grasses mature in autumn and Owls can be seen in late winter.
The serpentine aster, one of many rare plants which thrive on this chaing of barrens, can be found nowhere else in the world.
Call to Action
The Nature Conservancy helps to protect places that contain rare species. For more information, call (610) 834-1323 or go to www.nature.org