The day before Halloween, NPI President, Tammany Baumgarten, and Board Director Cheryl Geiger made the trek to St. Tammany Parish to attend a guided walk in the Abita Creek Flatwoods Preserve hosted by the Land Trust for Louisiana. Biologists, Nelwyn McInnis and Latimore Smith guided about 20 participants on a boardwalk stroll through a wet longleaf pine savanna grassland, highlighting the natural history and special features. The preserve is described by the Nature Conservancy as a “premiere wetland community with pond cypress woodland, riparian forest, and carnivorous plants.” Land Trust for Louisiana’s conservation easement on the preserve is part of a joint effort with The Nature Conservancy to protect 950 acres of Longleaf pine habitat.
We started our walk on a misty Hallows eve morning, following behind Nelwyn and Latimore, and they explained how hydrology and fire play an important role to create this unique landscape. The seasonality of the wetlands and the undulating ridges and swales support a diverse ecosystem with over 300 species of plants, including rare and endemic species! They explained how historically spring lightning strikes set the savannah ablaze and that the plant community here was adapted to the seasonal burning and relies on it. For example the Longleaf pine, a keystone species in this ecosystem, requires fire to open its pine cones.
The group slowly walked the boardwalk, asking the knowledgeable biologists questions about flora and fauna identification, land management, and the further conservation efforts of Abita Flatwoods Creek preserve. We got to see carnivorous pitcher plants and sundews up close, enjoyed fall blooming flowers, and learned what makes this landscape rare and worth protecting! Visit Land Trust for Louisiana | Land Conservation to check out the good work they are doing at Abita Creek Flatwoods Preserve and through the state!
Enjoy the pictures from the day!
-Cheryl Geiger, NPI Board member