|L-R Rick Myers, Garrie Rouse and Chris Ludwig|
Let me begin by stating that I can be easily impressed by what some would consider mundane things. I consider my depth of knowledge limited in many respects. I’m too old to be considered ‘impressionable’ as if referring to a youngster. However, this past Sunday I was REALLY impressed!
On a recent beautiful fall day, the kind just made for hikers, I was lucky enough to be part of a group that hiked up Bald Knob in Rocky Mount, VA. This was an event planned by Virginia’s Natural Heritage Program(VNHP), a division of VA’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, in Honor of its 30th Anniversary. Just this past March, Bald Knob became the 63rd parcel of land in Virginia to be added to Virginia’s Natural Area Preserve System.
We had three guides. Rick Myers, Natural Areas Stewardship Manager; Chris Ludwig, Chief Biologist for Natural Heritage Inventory (and by the way co-author of Flora of Virginia); and Garrie Rouse, Botanist and one of the 4 original folks who began the VNHP in a makeshift office in Richmond 30 years ago.
To a Virginia Master Naturalist like myself, it doesn’t get any better than this.
It is important to mention, that the reason this location is so special and deserving of preservation, is because it is one of only 5 locations known where the Piedmont Fameflower, Phemaranthus piedmontanus grows, and in such numbers that surpass all other sites combined. The unusual outcropping is the world’s largest Piedmont mafic barren community. It also hosts the rare Keever’s bristle-moss, Orthotrichum keeverae. Near the lower section of this 78+ acre parcel is a stream that feeds into the Pigg River, where the federally endangered species, Roanoke Log Perch can be found.
We carefully picked our way to the summit, observing unique plants along the way. Various plants were scrutinized and the correct Latin terminology to identify their individuality were sometimes debated. So much Latin was tossed around, I thought at times I was in a time warp. I have SO MUCH to learn!!!
Prickly pear fruit was abundant and colorful and various native grasses and plants were still blooming for our benefit. To add to this day EVEN MORE, was the opportunity to meet Clyde Perdue Jr., the gentleman from whom this property was purchased. He and his grandson, Clyde IV, met us on the uphill trek and were enjoying the scenery from the summit later on as well.
I took some photographs, but did not get the quality I wanted. I need to practice more… While we were at the summit, and learning more about the preserve from our experts, I took one with all three in the view. Garrie Rouse is the one snapping pictures of his own, on what appears to be the edge of the abyss. Another is a shot of Grimmia dry rock moss, Grimmia laevigata. As you can see, it grows in abundance on Bald Knob.
|Grimmia dry rock moss, Grimmia laevigata|
I am more certain now than ever, that Bald Knob Natural Area Preserve is a real natural wonder which we need to be good caretakers and stewards of. The Virginia Natural Heritage Program’s role is to protect and preserve this area, including its rare species and community. Our three guides, (Rick, Garrie and Chris), Clyde Perdue who had the insight to pass this property into good hands, and Bald Knob itself are all outstanding! Oh by the way, did I mention, OUTSTANDING?
Submitted by: Kathy Scott
President of Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter of VMN