The only extant, prairie-like communities in the Virginia Piedmont are semi-natural and influenced by artificial disturbance regimes. Examples occurring in military base training areas ("impact areas") at Fort Pickett and Quantico Marine Base have been subject to frequent incendiary fires for at least 50 years; these comprise our only examples of grassland vegetation that has been shaped by random burns of a size, frequency, and intensity comparable to those of putative pre-settlement fire regimes. Similar grasslands have developed in Manassas National Battlefield Park and scattered powerline rights-of-way as the result of long-term periodic mowing. The vegetation of most sites is dominated by little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans). Frequent associates include large purple false-foxglove (Agalinis purpurea), purple three-awn grass (Aristida purpurascens), bushy aster (Symphyotrichum dumosum var. dumosum, = Aster dumosus var. dumosus), tick-trefoils (Desmodium spp.), bushclovers (Lespedeza spp.), scaly blazing-star (Liatris squarrosa var. squarrosa), narrow-leaved mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium), orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida), few-flowered nutrush (Scleria pauciflora), and goldenrods (Solidago nemoralis var. nemoralis and Solidago juncea). A number of state-rare, light-demanding species, e.g ., stiff goldenrod (Oligoneuron rigidum var. rigidum, = Solidago rigida ssp. rigida), Torrey's mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum torrei), earleaf foxglove (Agalinis auriculata), and blue-hearts (Buchnera americana), are associated with these communities, particularly on mafic soils.
Reference: Fleming (2002a), Fleming et al. (2001).
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|Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), narrow-leaved mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium), and early goldenrod (Solidago juncea) in an artificially maintained prairie at Manassas National Battlefield Park, Prince William County. Gary P. Fleming / © DCR Natural Heritage.|
|Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) and stiff goldenrod (Oligoneuron rigidum var. rigidum , = Solidago rigida ssp. rigida) in prairie-like vegetation of an old field on diabase, near Nokesville, Prince William County. Gary P. Fleming / © DCR Natural Heritage.|
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