Middle Tennessee Cedar Glades

Map adapted from William J. Wolfe, “Hydrology and Tree-Distribution Patterns of Karst Wetlands at Arnold engineering Development Center,” USGS

Edaphic islands have long-fascinated me–especially having grown to understand the serpentine barrens of the Klamath Mountains. So when we found ourselves visiting the Central Basin Region of middle Tennessee I discovered, through the help of the Tennessee Native Plant Society, that this area is botanically special for its limestone prairies, often called glades. While numerous state designated natural areas were recommended, I chose to learn about the Middle Tennessee Cedar Glades at Flat Rock Glades and Barrens State Natural Area.

Flat Rock Glades and Barrens State Natural Area

This area offers exposed limestone interspersed with Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiaia), oak, and hickory forests that occur in deeper soils. The hot and humid climate of the Nashville Basin promotes dense eastern deciduous forests while the limestone outcrops of the region create mini-deserts where open areas of exposed limestone have been, over millennia, denuded of overlying soil. This rock layer inhibits deep-rooted trees from encroaching while supporting a diversity of plants with shallow roots, like annual grasses. Due to temperature, light, and moisture extremes an environment for flora is fostered unlike any other in the world–where remnant prairies contains both endemics and coastal plain species disjunct from their nearest populations by hundreds of miles. What follows is a photographic tour of the area.

Flat Rock Cedar Glade

Flat Rock Glades and Barrens State Natural Area

Dense cedar, oak and hickory forest at the edge of the glades.

Dense cedar, oak and hickory forest at the edge of the glades.

Limestone outcrops in the middle Tennessee Cedar Glades

Limestone outcrops in the middle Tennessee cedar glades

Tennessee Coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis)

Tennessee Coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) in late bloom. This plant was the first species in Tennessee to qualify as an endangered species–it is found nowhere else in the world except in the central basin of the state.

Missouri primrose (Oenothera missouriensis),

Missouri primrose (Oenothera missouriensis),

Fire is used to maintain and open understory at the edge of the glades, managed by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Fire is used to maintain and open understory at the edge of the glades, managed by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

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3 thoughts on “Middle Tennessee Cedar Glades

  1. It”s the best glade around for observing a wide range of cedar glade plants and habitats. I have been going there for years.

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