Serpentine barrens are a
unique ecosystem found in parts of the
States in small but widely-distributed areas of the
Appalachians and the Coast Ranges of
California, Oregon and Washington.
Unlike most ecosystems, in serpentine
barrens there is less plant growth closer to a stream, due to toxic
minerals in the water.
The barrens occur on
outrops of altered ultramafic ophiolites
. They are named for minerals of the
, resulting in
, with unusually high
concentrations of iron
. These minerals are toxic to most species of
plants, resulting in an unusual community of plants, including many
species. Serpentine barrens
often consist of grassland
in areas where the climate
would normally lead to the growth of
The ecology of Serpentine Barrens is poorly understood: the
evolution of plants adapted to such areas and the relationship
between the soil geology and ecology, particularly the ways in
which plants handle high concentrations of metals such as nickel,
is largely unexplored.
Springs Nature Preserve in southern Lancaster County, PA is a 176-acre property conserved by the Lancaster County Conservancy
that is a prime example of a serpentine barren.
originally a grassland, but fire
led to the conversion of the area to forest. This
barren contains the rare serpentine
, as well as a number of rare species of moth
PA, the Nottingham Park Serpentine Barrens was
recommended by UMCES as deserving of National Natural Landmark
designation, on numerous grounds, including supporting a number of
rare and endemic species, an intact population of pitch pine, and also the site having historic significance.
- Anderson, Roger C., et. al., Savannas, Barrens, and Rock
Outcrop Plant Communities of North America, Ch. 19, Cambridge
University Press, 1999, ISBN 052157322X
- "Evaluation of the Nottingham Park Serpentine
Barrens", UMCES-AL, Retrieved May 10, 2009.
- Nishanta Rajakaruna, Tanner B. Harris, Earl B. Alexander,
"Serpentine Geoecology of Eastern North America: A Review",
Rhodora, Vol. 111, No. 945, pp. 21-108. (2009)
- "Rock Springs Nature Preserve", Lancaster County
Conservancy Website, Retrieved May 10, 2009.