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Finding the Wells Savannah

"The savanna's resemblance to the now extirpated Big Savannah presents an opportunity to examine and document a savanna community type known to exist only in Pender County, and currently, only at Wells Savannah."

Susan Shelingoski
Wells Savannah, An Example of a Unique Fire Dependent Ecosystem in the North Carolina Coastal Plain. NCSU Thesis

In the late 1990s, botanist Richard LeBlond with the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program was conducting natural area surveys in Pender County when he noticed an attractive group of flowers in the area underneath power lines. He returned to the site and realized that many of the unusual and rare species he saw were the same that Wells had documented on the Big Savannah. Further research showed that the two sites share the same unique soil type, and mowing by the power line owners had kept the habitat open, as fire had on Big Savannah.

Through a coordinated effort guided by the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, representatives of the state, the university, and private individuals, as well as the Conservation Trust for North Carolina and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, worked to raise funds to purchase the 117-acre site from a cooperative landowner. In April 2002, it was dedicated and named B. W. Wells Savannah.

Sarracenia purpurea L. var. venosa (Raf.) Fern.

First official Wells Savannah hike; powerlines in background

A black spider sitting on a large umbrella trumpet

Richard LeBlond photographing carolina loosestrifes

NC StateTeaching Technician Donna Wright, left, graduate student Susan Shelingoski, and Associate Professor Jon Stucky, on the Wells Savannah
October 2001

Wells Savannah after a burn with powerlines in background

Pink sundew
Drosera capillaris Poir.

Dwarf iris
Iris verna L. var. verna

Small snake-mouth orchid
Pogonia ophioglossoides (L.) Ker-Gawl.

With grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust began implementation of a management program aimed at restoring B. W. Wells Savannah to an open condition reflecting a more natural fire regime. On January 29, 2005, fire lines were established, and, for the first time, the entire tract was successfully burned. With each successive fire, B. W. Wells Savannah will become increasingly open, with conditions more conducive to the spectacular floral displays that Wells described in the 1920s and 1930s.

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