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A Blast From The Past

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Katie (left) and Pearl (right) are working mules. Their owner, David Blankenship, recently contracted with ANHC to remove invasive eastern red-cedar from limestone-dolomite glades on a portion of Devil’s Knob-Devil’s Backbone Natural Area in Izard County.

Glades typically occur in the landscape as open areas with thin soils, exposed rock, and very few trees or shrubs. Vegetation is very diverse and consists of grasses, flowers and other herbaceous plants that tolerate dry conditions. The thin, poor soils, along with regular fire, historically limited the presence of trees in glades. But eastern red-cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a hearty species that can thrive in almost any condition—from dry, rocky slopes to the rich, thick soil of farm fields.

Due to years of fire suppression, eastern red-cedar had taken over the limestone-dolomite glades on a portion of Devil’s Knob-Devil’s Backbone Natural Area. It is an opportunistic species and will out-compete other native vegetation when not controlled by natural ecosystem processes. As the trees encroached on the glades, the amount of sunlight reaching the ground was reduced. In turn, this negatively impacted habitat for rare glade species. By removing the eastern red-cedar, then following up with fire, we are giving the glade ecosystems an opportunity to return to their native state. A number of rare plants will benefit from this restoration work, such as large-flower tickseed (Coreopsis grandiflora var. saxicola), purple beardtongue (Penstemon cobaea), silvery aster (Symphyotrichum sericeum), and a sedge (Carex planostachys) only known from one other Arkansas county (Little River).

David Blankenship lives in the Mount Olive community, close to Devil’s Knob-Devil’s Backbone Natural Area. He felled the cedars by hand (pictured above) and removed the logs with mules, minimizing additional disturbances to the sensitive glade ecosystem. 

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