Path winding through a maritime forest leading to Zeke’s Basin, Fort Fisher, NC.
Xeric Sandhill Scrub
A late afternoon walk through Carolina Beach State Park revealed wonders. I’m reticent to walk by myself in parks and wilderness. Too many stories float through my head which gives me pause and lends caution to my steps. However, this one trail, called the Flytrap Trail, is short and loops close to the parking area. The habitat is a Pine Savannah, one of a dozen different habitats in the small park. My short walk took me through three…that I recognized, or think I did. This is home to the mighty longleaf pine. Needles of a longleaf pine can reach 18 inches in length. These amazing feathery needles are beautiful and soft. The park service regularly burns the area, as burns discourage hardwood growth, incourages pine and other softwoods, as well as the carnivorous plants and grasses that make up the undergrowth.
The Venus Flytraps are not out at this time of year, but I found a waning yellow pitcher plant, which is endangered and protected under NC Law.
The walk was pleasant. Flat, sandy, dry soil with small scrub and some grasses is called Xeric Sandhill Scrub habitat. It is very distinctive – a lovely open feeling. This time of year the small hardwood oaks glow bright red in the lowering light. “Xeric” means dry.
Sense of Place
This trail is so flat and easy and short that it is deemed handicapped accessible. Wide trails, easily marked, weaving in and out of longleaf pine, grasses, stubby oaks and the occasional live oak, brought the woods back into my senses. The beach is nice, but I crave woods.
Live oaks are called “live” because they are evergreen. However, these live oaks nestled within the pine savannah of Carolina Beach State Park are largely denuded of leaves, which I can only think must be due to the frequent burns. They are very much alive and thriving.
Towards the end of the short trail a sturdy boardwalk take you right through a small swamp. Mossy rocks, autumn leaves, mossy bases of trees, twisted roots, lots of birdsong. I love me a good swamp.
Pine Savannah meets Coastal Fringe Evergreen Forest
That’s the best ID I can do on this area without proper guidance by a Ranger or park attendant. My interpretation of the state park’s beautifully done exhibit within their building. This short walk whetted my appetite for more and opened up something inside of me I’ve been missing. Apologies to anyone who truly understands this environment if I miss-identified a habitat but I’m learning. And it feels good.
“To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.” Helen Keller
Live oak blocks the glaring sun at Airlie Gardens, Wilmington, North Carolina.