Other Natural Areas Managed by the North Carolina Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden Foundation (BGF), along with the North Carolina Botanical Garden, protects land through a variety of conservation methods, including ownership, conservation easement, and sublease/management agreements. To date, BGF has protected approximately 280 acres. Some of these natural areas are open to the public, while others are not.

The Green Dragons help us manage our natural areas, particularly Mason Farm Biological Reserve and the Coker Pinetum.

Coker Pinetum — Public Access

photo of a creek in the Coker Pinetum

The Coker Pinetum is approximately 25 acres of wooded terrain administered by the North Carolina Botanical Garden that links the UNC campus with the Garden. A pinetum, by definition, is a collection of pines or conifers that is particularly used for their scientific study. Few pines remain in this particular site, however, but some of the remnant trees are quite old and retain resin-tapping scars. Meeting-of-the-Waters Creek (mostly confined to buried culverts on the main campus) flows freely from the upper reaches of the Pinetum to its confluence with Morgan Creek.

The Pinetum came to the Botanical Garden as a deeded gift from the estate of botany professor William C. Coker, who used it for teaching and as a living laboratory. According to the deed, the described property shall be used "only for a Botanical Garden and Park area," and reverts to Coker College in South Carolina if this restriction is violated.

A Campus-to-Garden Trail through the Pinetum extends from a Ridge Road access point to an access point at the Fern Lane and Iris Drive intersection.

photo of people standing in the Coker Pinetum

An easier and more direct trail is the OWASA right-of-way. From the UNC Campus: Parking on campus is generally problematic for the uninitiated. Please locate the nearest public parking to Ridge Road near the Institute for Government. A marked trailhead is located at the convex mirror near Henry Stadium. Follow this trail to the OWASA (Orange Water and Sewer Authority) utility easement. At this point there is the option of following the larger OWASA easement to Iris Lane or to cross the easement and continue on the smaller nature trail, which also terminates on Iris Lane.
Diamond-shaped trail markers occur along the nature trail route. The nature trail more-or-less follows Meeting-of-the-Waters Creek. Note that the nature trail is located on very uneven ground that requires four creek crossings.

Once on Iris Lane, if you wish to continue on to the Botanical Garden, follow the road to the signaled intersection at Old Mason Farm Road and Fordham Boulevard/US 15-501 Bypass. Cross to the Botanical Garden visitor parking lot and then proceed on to the Garden proper. Note that this is a very busy and dangerous intersection for pedestrians and bicyclists.

From the N.C. Botanical Garden: Park at the Garden's visitor parking lot off of Old Mason Farm Road and cross US 15-501 at the intersection of Old Mason Farm Road and Fordham Boulevard/US 15-501 bypass. Note that this is a very busy and dangerous intersection for pedestrians and bicyclists. Cross to Carmichael Road and turn left, which will lead to (and become) Iris Lane. The nature trail trailhead is on the left at the intersection of Iris Lane and Fern Lane. Diamond-shaped trail markers occur along the nature trail route. The nature trail more-or-less follows Meeting-of-the-Waters Creek. Note that the nature trail is located on very uneven ground that requires four creek crossings.

Gordon Butler Nature Preserve — Public Access

photo of the Gordon Butler Nature Preserve

The Gordon Butler Nature Preserve is located in the Sandhills community of Hope Mills just south of Fayetteville, NC, in Cumberland County. This 12.5-acre preserve contains an impressive assemblage of pine flatwoods plants including an amazing collection of mountain laurel flower color variants and the rare white wicky (Kalmia cuneata). This preserve is also the site of a longleaf pine restoration project funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

Hackberry-Warbler Trail — Public Access

The Hackberry-Warbler Trail is a loop trail approximately two-thirds mile long that winds through a floodplain forest adjacent to Morgan Creek. The name of the trail comes from the presence of hackberry trees (Celtis laevigata) that thrive in the rich alluvial soil along the creek, and the importance of this mature forest to migrating and nesting warblers and other types of birds. The area is part of the 367-acre Mason Farm Biological Reserve. The area includes four natural areas that have been nominated for the North Carolina Registry of Natural Heritage Areas and provides home for a wide range of plants, birds, and wildlife. More than a hundred different species of birds have been observed during decades of bird counts and ornithological studies on the Biological Reserve.

Penny's Bend Nature Preserve — Public Access

Penny's Bend Nature Preserve is an 84-acre site surrounded on three sides by the Eno River in eastern Durham County, North Carolina. The Preserve has the distinction of being U.S Army Corps of Engineers property that is sub-leased by the State of North Carolina Division of Water Resources and managed by the North Carolina Botanical Garden through the Botanical Garden Foundation, Inc.

photo of two people walking down a trail in a field at Penny's Bend Nature Preserve

The Preserve protects rare plant species found in various plant communities: a remnant Piedmont prairie, rich mesic and alluvial forests, dry shortleaf pine-dominated bluffs, a human-sculpted open space, and an historic mill. Some of the rare plants species found on the Preserve include the federally listed Smooth Purple Coneflower (Echinacea laevigata); the regionally rare midwest prairie disjuncts, Eastern Prairie Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia minor var. aberrans =B. australis var. minor) and Hoary Puccoon (Lithospermum canencens); and a large population of Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), rare in the North Carolina Piedmont.

The mesic and alluvial forests on the west-facing slope of the Preserve have a high diversity of tree species and an abundant display of spring wildflowers. The uplands, once used to graze horses and cattle, is now an open field with scattered red cedars, providing a view of the slopes surrounding the bend of the river. The remains of the historic Cameron's Mill, built in 1836, are located on the eastern border of the Preserve. The Preserve also provides an excellent site for individuals wishing to explore a natural and historic landscape.

To visit Penny's Bend:

From I-85 take exit 177C, Roxboro Rd (north). Follow Roxboro Rd north for 1.5 miles and turn right onto Old Oxford Rd. Follow Old Oxford Rd for 3 miles, and turn left on Snow Hill Rd, just after crossing the Eno River (over a small bridge). The entrance to the gravel parking lot will be immediately on your left, before Wanderlust Lane. The trailhead begins in the parking lot.

For occasional tours of Penny's Bend Nature Preserve and other natural areas, check our Guided Tours and Hikes page.

See also the Eno River Association's Penny's Bend website.

Other Natural Areas (not open to the public)

These areas are also owned by the Botanical Garden and the Botanical Garden Foundation, and in some cases are bordered by private property where the Garden/Foundation holds a conservation easement. A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and the North Carolina Botanical Garden (or Botanical Garden Foundation, Inc.) in which: (1) the landowner promises to keep the land in its natural conditions, and (2) NCBG is granted the right to monitor the property and enforce the terms of the easement if need be. Because land under easement remains privately held, access to these properties is restricted.

At just three acres, Edwards Mountain Preserve is the smallest of our nature preserves. It is also known as Highland Pond and Salamander Pond, as it is on the top of Edwards Mountain, indeed a highland, and is the location of a large vernal pool in which salamanders and other amphibians congregate to breed in the late winter and spring. Annual visits by Garden staff continue to verify that the vernal pool continues to serve our amphibious co-habitants.

Laurel Hill Nature Preserve (LHNP) is a 75-acre site adjacent to the western flank of the Mason Farm Biological Reserve and in 2001 was dedicated as a State Nature Preserve. The LHNP came to the Garden as a gift from Marin Development Corporation in conjunction with the creation of Hunt's Reserve and The Reserve neighborhoods. The LHNP includes mature upland mesic forests and is also the location for several archaeologically important Morgan family home sites. An additional 12-acres of conservation easement land on private property adds size and buffer area to the nature preserve.

William Lanier Hunt Arboretum: From the 1960s into the 1990s, William Lanier Hunt donated over 100 acres of land to the North Carolina Botanical Garden, including several beautiful rhododendron bluffs located in a gorge along Morgan Creek. The purpose the William Lanier Hunt Arboretum is to protect natural areas and conserve a collection of the diverse woody plants of the southeastern United States. Upstream of and contiguous with the Hunt Arboretum lies the eight-acre Grey Bluff Garden that also protects the steep slopes along Morgan Creek and another extensive rhododendron bluff. Learn more about the Morgan Creek Valley...

Updated on February 07, 2014 at 12:04:54 am.


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