Serpentine Barrens

Background Information: The Nature Conservancy is a national, nonprofit corporation whose resources are devoted to the protection of ecologically significant areas and the diversity of life they support. The private membership organization places highest priority on the preservation of race and endangered species through the systematic protection of critical habitats. Operating in the United States for 36 years, the Conservancy also has an International Program that focuses on conservation of living resources outside the United States.

The Conservancy works by identifying lands that shelter the best examples of natural communities and species; determining what is truly rare and where it exists; protecting habitats and natural systems through acquisition by gift or purchase; assisting government and other conservation organizations in their land preservation efforts; managing more than 1,000 preserves using staff and volunteer land stewards and encouraging compatible use of the sanctuaries by researchers, students and the public.

The Nature Conservancy has included in its registry our own property including the present quarry and surrounding land (a map of the area is available for you to look at). This piece of property has been named the "Fern Hill Serpentine Barrens" and has been described by the Conservancy as such.

"Fern Hill Serpentine Barrens is one of the most important natural areas in Pennsylvania. The site contains a unique natural feature - eastern serpentine barrens - so called in part because of the rock formation that underlies the rolling topography. Serpentine is one of the oldest rock configurations along the eastern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The rock itself contains traces of heavy metals and thus can be home to only a few specially adapted species."

"The Fern Hill barrens consist of a steeply rising serpentine outcrop with a post--oak sassafras forest on the slopes and a bluestem cedar phlox glade covering the ridge top. An oak forest has developed upon the ridge. Two small streams bisect the area and an old quarry and road form the eastern edge of the barren."

"Among the rare plant species found at Fern Hill Serpentine Barrens are the globally endangered serpentine aster (Aster depauperatus), a member of the daisy family that loses most of its leaves by fall when it blooms, a fact that may be an adaptation to survival in drought conditions amid the rock; the round-leafed fame flower (Talinum teretifolium), a tiny delicate pink flower that can be seen on bare rock outcroppings and opens only in the afternoon on sunny summer days; annual fimbry (Fimbristylis annua), a grass--like plant or sedge that blooms in September; and tall or side-oat gramma (Bouteloua curtipendula) a distinctive, small dry-prairie grass with red and orange flowers that appears in late summer."

The following are excerpts from a letter sent to the Association from the Director of Land Protection of the Philadelphia office of the Nature Conservancy:

"...It was also a real pleasure to find out that the Association does not plan to develop or sell the property or make any changes in its current uses. As we discussed, the Association's commitment to the protection of the natural values of the land qualifies it for The Nature Conservancy's Natural Areas Registry. Registry includes important natural areas whose owners informally agree to protect the land, to notify the Conservancy of any threats to the property and to let us know ahead of time in case they should have to sell the property or significantly change its use....The most important part of the registry program is that it encourages regular communication between the landowners and the Nature Conservancy so that we can work together toward our mutual goal of preserving the property as a natural area. In addition, we would be most pleased to lead a nature walk and talk to other Association members about the barren..."