Documenting the surviving pieces of Historic Savannas and Prairies of the Virginia Piedmont!

2023 Piedmont Grasslands Assessment Fundraiser

We cannot do this without you!

Hiding in thousands of small and forgotten places are the intact remains of a rich, pre-settlement natural world. These leftovers, often called remnants, are extraordinarily diverse and resilient, and they provide insight and inspire hope for a future of greater biological diversity. These are the natural grasslands of the Piedmont, once vast, expansive, and teeming with color and vitality, now reduced to forgotten fragments and overlooked refugia. They may be forgotten, but they are not lost!

These ecological time capsules are inspiring new research and conservation, while informing the preservation and renewal of savannas and prairies on degraded landscapes. Old growth remains of this patchwork of Piedmont savannas and prairies, and the rare plants they harbor, have inspired us to take action before they are lost. It’s not too late!

We need your help!

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June view of a Piedmont alluvial terrace prairie in Albemarle County, Virginia. Featuring Helenium flexuosum, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, and Scutellaria integrifolia.

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Smooth Coneflower (Echinacea laevigata)

Federally endangered

Tall Barbara’s Buttons (Marshallia legrandii)

Mafic woodlands, savanna remnants and barrens

Known only from two sites in the world, in Piedmont of VA and NC (mafic savanna remnants)

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A mantis stalks wasps on
Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium)

S2 (State rare)

Purple-disk Sunflower
(Helianthus atrorubens)

Mafic hardpan savanna remnants

Dry prairie/savanna remnants

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Torrey’s Mountain-mint
(Pycnanthemum torreyi)

G2 (Globally imperiled)

Upland Ironweed (Vernonia glauca)

Dry woodland and savanna remnants

Mafic savanna remnants

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Field Tech, David Bellangue with
Clasping Milkweed (
Asclepias amplexicaulis)

CUH Director, Devin Floyd, with
Green Milkweed (
Asclepias viridiflora)

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Low elevation Acidic Barren
with
Opuntia mesacantha
and
Phemeranthus teretifolius,
Albemarle County, Virginia

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Carolina Thistle (Cirsium carolinianum)

Goat’s-rue (Tephrosia virginiana)

Mafic hardpan savanna remnants

Dry acidic prairie/savanna remnants

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Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum)

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UVA landscape architecture students
at a prescribed burn

PGA field crew poses in a high quality
mafic prairie remnant

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Acidic savanna remnant, Fluvanna County, Virginia

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Prairie Phlox (Phlox pilosa)

Glade Wild Quinine
(Parthenium auriculatum)

Mafic hardpan savanna remnants

Mafic savanna remnants – restricted to soils
high in magnesium

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North American Bumblebee
(Bombus pensylvanicus)

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Federally threatened grassland endemic

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Evie Sackett and Leighton Reid in a very high quality Acidic Piedmont Prairie remnant

The field crew surveys an exceptional
Basic Piedmont Prairie/Savanna remnant

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Late October view of a Triassic Basin savanna remnant, Cumberland County, Virginia

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Curlyheads (Clematis ochroleuca)

American Ipecac (Gillenia stipulata)

Mafic woodlands and savanna remnants

Mafic savanna remnants –
disjunct from Midwest

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Seepage Dancer (Argia bipunctulata)

Found only in seepage grasslands

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The survey crew in a very rare alluvial terrace grassland remnant

Co-Principal Investigator, MJ Epps, examines a
Georgia River Cruiser (
Macromia illinoiensis georgina)

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A very high quality Basic Piedmont Prairie with over 85 species in 100 m2

Wet base-rich grasslands

Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens)

S2 (State rare)

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Reindeer Lichens (Cladonia spp.) in a xeric, acidic Piedmont Prairie

Grimmia laevigata coats the surface of a Piedmont Mafic Barren

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Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

on Liatris squarrosa

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Jessie Wingo and Evie Sackett in grassland remant dominated by Liatris squarrosa, Goochland County, Virginia

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Mafic savanna remnant with Symphyotrichum concolor, Solidago erecta, Eupatorium album, Liatris squarrosa, and Schizachyrium scoparium

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Curtiss’ Milkwort
(Polygala curtisii)

S1 (State critically imperiled)

Dwarf Chinquapin Oak (Quercus prinoides)

Dry grassland remnants

Grassland endemic

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Spider wasp (Entypus unifasciatus)

on Piedmont Swamp Milkweed
(
Asclepias incarnata var. pulchra)

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MJ Epps recording plot data in an Acidic Piedmont Prairie/Savanna remnant

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Millions of people regard the Piedmont landscape as a biological wasteland of big agriculture and suburban sprawl. However, thousands of tiny old growth savanna and prairie remnants cling tenuously to existence. Roadsides, powerline rights-of-way, old fields, and other sites where human disturbance keeps woody vegetation at bay host remnants of one of the nation’s most biodiverse ecosystems. Thousands of plant and animal species, including the monarch butterfly and North American bumblebee depend on these high-quality grassland ecosystems for their survival. Unfortunately, each year, we lose more and more of these remnants to development or land mismanagement fueled by our collective ignorance of these remarkable communities. 

In order to understand and protect the grasslands of the Piedmont, we must first find and study them. Over the past 2 years, Center for Urban Habitats has conducted research aimed at understanding the status, distribution, and diversity of grassland plant communities in the Virginia Piedmont. Our Grasslands Team has discovered over 800 hypothesized old-growth remnant grasslands over 17 counties in the central Virginia Piedmont. More than150 of these locations were chosen for in-depth study. This research has revealed over a hundred county record occurrences for plant species, many rare species, and multiple new occurrences of state and globally imperiled plant communities. The research has also generated data supports the potential recognition of several new types of Piedmont grasslands. 

Our goal is to continue to conduct this research across the entirety of Virginia’s Piedmont from the Fall Line to the Blue Ridge, North Carolina line to the Potomac, and eventually beyond, into other states. These special places cannot be protected at a significant level without first being formally recognized by state and federal agencies, which is not yet the case in Virginia or other states. In order to fully evaluate the diversity and health of Piedmont grasslands, we must continue to conduct this research across the rest of Virginia’s Piedmont region and beyond. 

We cannot do this alone! We need your help. 

We are asking you to chip in and help support us so we can continue locating, studying, and protecting some of Virginia’s most ecologically significant and imperiled places in 2023 and beyond. Every cent will go toward funding research and conservation efforts in 10 Southern Virginia Piedmont counties in the heart of the historic “Grand Savanae” mapped by the early European explorers. We expect to find between 300-400 new grassland sites, 80-100 new county records, and several new occurrences of state and globally imperiled species. We also expect to discover at least one or two new grassland types not documented before. We are aiming for a goal of $75,000 which will cover the cost of wages for several highly experienced field techs, lodging over several weeks between July – October, fuel for the crew’s vehicles, and the important step of data analysis and publication. Every contribution brings us one step closer to making this a reality.

THANK YOU!

– Devin Floyd, Executive Director, and the research crew, Drew Chaney, Mary Jane Epps, Ezra Staengl, Evie Sackett, David Bellangue, Jordan Coscia, Leighton Reid, Jessie Wingo, and Emily Luebke. 

Donate with a Check

Please send a check to:

Center for Urban Habitats

989 Thorn Rose Lane

Charlottesville, Virginia 22902

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