On the dry to mesic sand ridges and flats of Blackwater Ecological Preserve are found some of the rarest plant communities in Virginia: Longleaf Pine / Scrub Oak Sandhills and Longleaf Pine Savannas. The sandy flats associated with the sandhills have soils with seasonally perched water tables but are primarily well-drained and dry for substantial periods of the year. Here are mixed stands of longleaf, loblolly (Pinus taeda) and pond pines (Pinus serotina) , with a scattered understory of turkey oak (Quercus laevis). Dense, mostly ericaceous shrub layers of sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) or Carolina laurel (Kalmia carolina), huckleberries (Gaylussacia spp.), blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), inkberry (Ilex glabra), and switch cane (Arundinaria tecta) are characteristic. Herbs have become abundant after nearly two decades of prescribed fire management and include southern bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum ssp. pseudocaudatum), common pyxie-moss (Pyxidanthera barbulata var. barbulata), chaffheads (Carphephorus bellidifolius and Carphephorus tomentosus), and fasciculate beaksedge (Rhynchospora fascicularis).
This preserve supports the northernmost occurrence of a longleaf pine savanna in the U.S., containing more than a dozen elements of Virginia's natural heritage.
This preserve is owned by Old Dominion University (ODU). Please contact the ODU Department of Biology for information on visitation at (757) 683-3595. Or visit their website for more information www.odu.edu/~lmusselm/blackwater/
Part or all of the preserve may be periodically closed for resource protection or prescribed burning activities. Please call before visiting.