Triangle Land Conservancy's Temple Flat Rock Preserve
Outside Wendell, NC (pop. ~ 6,000), an eastern satellite town of Raleigh, sits 5,270 square meters of exposed granite rock that supports a unique community of lichens, bryophytes, and angiosperms (flowering-plants). In 1984, the Temple family donated this unusual Registered Natural Heritage Site to the Nature Conservancy. In the mid-1990s, Temple Flat Rock was transferred the Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC), becoming the organization's first conservation easement.
|Temple Flat Rock, Wendell NC with Appalachian sandwort (white flowers) and elf-orpine (pink); April 2013|
|Fence lizard at Temple Flat Rock|
|Piedmont prairie establishment at Temple Flat Rock|
The TLC preserve is also notable as a Piedmont prairie restoration site. Like the tallgrass prairies of the
Currently, Temple Flat Rock includes about 5 acres of granite outcrop, 15 acres of mixed hardwoods, and 16 acres of grassland established from old agriculture fields and horse pasture. Like most prairie restoration, recreation, and establishment managers, Tysinger struggles to control the non-native fescue (Festuca sp.), sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) and native sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua). Using a combination of dormant season burns, spot spraying of herbicides, and bush hogging, Tysinger has been able to control the grassland invasives enough to establish (from plugs) native warm-season grasses, such as Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), little blue stem (Schizacharyium scoparium), and splitbeard bluestem (Andropogon tenarius). Other species seen in the grassland establishment include prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa), common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), and broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus).
|Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) thicket in Temple Flat Rock grassland establishment.|
|Prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa) at Temple Flat Rock grassland.|
In the Triangle, a number of remnant grasslands or restoration projects occur on the basic soils of the Triassic Basin, underlain by magnesium- and iron-rich diabase. These soils often contain montmorillonite, a type of clay that shrinks and swells so dramatically that it can deter tree root growth. In contrast, the Temple Flat Rock prairie establishment project occurs on acidic Louisburg (Typic Hapludults) and Appling (Typic Kanhapludults) soil. Yet, the site is so xeric and well-drained, that with a little ecological disturbance (e.g., fire), a grassland ecosystem feels perfectly natural. Moreover, the hard work of Tysinger and the Triangle Land Conservancy serves to remind us all of the natural and cultural heritage of North Carolina's Piedmont prairie landscape.
For more information about Temple Flat Rock, please visit the TLC website at www.triangleland.org.