“The signs introduce visitors to the diversity of tree species found in the western Piedmont and increase the educational value of this natural area preserve for residents of Franklin County and the nearby Roanoke Valley,” said Ryan Klopf, DCR’s mountain region steward.
Trees that have been identified with signs include white oak, eastern red cedar, Virginia pine, pitch pine, redbud, witch hazel, cucumber magnolia, tulip poplar, pignut hickory, black gum, serviceberry, red maple, sourwood and dogwood.
“Our thought with this project was to raise people’s awareness about trees in general,” said Denny McCarthy, a senior forester with DOF who helped identify trees and install the signs.
Grassy Hill is on the west side of the town of Rocky Mount. Evidence suggests the site once was more open and dominated by grasses than it is today — hence the name. Scars on older trees indicate a landscape once maintained by fire. Today, prescribed burning is one technique used by natural resource professionals to enhance conditions for the preserve’s plants.
Visitors can experience Grassy Hill along five miles of hiking trails. The preserve is well-suited for environmental education and passive recreation such as hiking, nature photography and bird watching. Uses that are prohibited include camping, mountain biking, horseback riding, off-road vehicles and the collection of wild plants and animals.
DCR manages 60 properties in Virginia’s Natural Area Preserve System. The system was established in 1989 and today consists of 50,580 acres. Natural area preserves contain some of the best examples of natural communities and rare plant and animal habitats in Virginia and the world.