Monday, July 7, 2008

Penny's Bend Nature Preserve (Durham, NC)

On Sunday, July 6, my husband and I explored Penny's Bend, in northeastern Durham. As a native Midwesterner, I especially enjoy visiting this unique preserve because I can find a little piece of home there, in the form of prairie. Penny's Bend is a 84-acre preserve, surrounded on three sides by the Eno River. It is underlain by diabase rock, which not only deflects that Eno River, thus accounting for the characteristic "bend," but is also responsible for the unusual, high pH soil at Penny's Bend. This soil supports a rare remnant of Piedmont prairie, one of the highlights of the site.

The preserve is located off of Snow Hill Road at the intersection Old Oxford Road. Trash litters the gravel parking area, but a small path to the right leads to a true North Carolina gem: Piedmont prairie. At the beginning of July, one can expect to see the fading white blooms of wild quinine (Parthenium integrifolium), the bright yellow disks of rosinweeds (Silphium spp), and the stunning purple head of the federally and state threatened smooth purple coneflower (Echinacea laevigata). The dark seed pods of wild blue indigo (Baptisia australis) also make a strong impression.


Smooth purple conflower (Echinacea laevigata)



Wild quinine (Parthenium integrifolium)


Whorled rosinweed (Silphium trifoliatum)


After taking in the beauty of the prairie, visitors can continue to hike through floodplain forest along the Eno River. Be on the lookout for eastern box turtles, black racers, butterflies (e.g., common wood nymphs - Cercyonis pegala, red spotted purples - Limenitis arthemis), and dragonflies (e.g., widow skimmers - Libellula luctuosa).


Red spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis)

Widow skimmer (female) (Libellula luctuosa)

For more information on the regarding Piedmont prairie, please refer to:

Davis, J. E., C McRae, B. L. Estep, L. S. Barden and J. F. Matthews. 2002. Vascular flora of Piedmont prairies: evidence from several prairie remnants. Castanea 67(1): 1-12.

Taecker, E. M. 2007. Identification and prioritization of lands for restoration of Piedmont prairie in North Carolina. Master's Thesis: Duke University. 44p

1 comment:

Kat said...

these photographs are incredible. i love that your blog is so educational and accessible. :) looking forward to seeing more in september! kat