Martha's Meadow

Flower at Martha's Meadow


Martha’s Meadow is a small botanical reserve whose floristic treasures were first brought to the attention of Berry College by botanists Pat Tomlinson and Richard and Theresa Ware. Although Martha Berry frequently took students to the site to study botany, the uniqueness of the site was not recognized until the early 2000s. Although very small ( <2 acres in size), the vegetation of Martha’s Meadow is distinct from that of surrounding flatwood areas and appears to be floristically similar to a limestone glade. Limestone (cedar) glades of the southeastern United States are characterized by high species richness and diversity, calcareous, limestone-based soil, and up to 26 endemic or near-endemic indicator species. Surveys of Martha’s Meadow in 2006 showed a total of 203 species in 56 families, including nine limestone-associated species designated as rare in the state of Georgia. Juniperus virginiana, a key species associated with glade communities, is important in both the overstory and the understory. Other important overstory species include Pinus taeda, Quercus shumardii, Q. muehlenbergii, and Ostrya virginiana. The perennial grass Danthonia spicata, the southeastern sedge Carex cherokeensis, and the herb Verbesina virginica, which is commonly associated with alkaline soils, were among the most important understory species, but no well recognized limestone glade endemics have been found in the meadow. Two invasive grasses (Festuca subverticillata and Microstegium vimineum) are also among the most important understory species. Martha’s Meadow appears to be floristically similar to several well-known limestone glades (e.g., Chickamauga National Battlefield). Evidence of on-going succession involving woody species suggests that the site might be best classified as a xeric limestone prairie (barrens) that requires disturbance or active management to maintain canopy openness and understory diversity.