Day Tripping to the North Carolina Coastal Plain

  • Saturday, May 19, 2007 – 7:00 am6:15 pm

Join us on our day trip to the Green Swamp Preserve and the Boiling Springs Preserve. Many people go to Brunswick County to enjoy the beaches, but we're going to visit the wetlands. These preserves are great places to enjoy nature and the botanical wonders in North Carolina's Coastal Plain. This region contains the richest flora along the Atlantic Coast north of Florida. Of special interest insectivorous plants and orchids that should be in peak flower at this time of the year. Frank Galloway will lead us on special tours highlighting the natural beauty and the plants of these Nature Conservancy preserves. Part of the proceeds for this trip will be donated to the Nature Conservancy.


Green Swamp Preserve

The Green Swamp contains some of the country's finest examples of longleaf pine savannas. The open savannas have a diverse herb layer with many orchids and insectivorous plants. Almost 13,000 acres of the preserve, however, are comprised of a dense evergreen shrub bog (pocosin) dominated by gallberry, titi, and sweetbay.

Many of the plants in the Green Swamp benefit from periodic burning; pond pine's cones burst and release seeds after being exposed to very high temperatures and wiregrass flowers vigorously after a fire. Longleaf pine seeds need bare ground to germinate and plenty of sunlight to grow, typical traits of plants that evolved in a landscape with frequent fires. The grasses and sedges of the Green Swamp have roots that are protected from the hottest fires, as do the orchids and insectivorous plants.

The Green Swamp contains at least 14 different species of insectivorous plants, including extensive populations of Venus flytrap, sundew, and four species of pitcher plant. The preserve is home to many rare animals, including American alligator, fox squirrel, Henslow's sparrow, Bachman's sparrow, and Hessel's hairstreak butterfly.

One of the preserve's rarest residents is the federally listed endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. This woodpecker takes its name from the male's tiny red splotch behind its eye. The woodpecker prefers to nest in old-growth longleaf pines with red heart disease, since it can drill a nesting cavity in the softened core of the trees. The nesting trees are easily identified by the shiny, sticky coating of resin around the cavity that keeps eggs and young safe from predators such as ants, squirrels, and snakes. The woodpeckers complete the nest in one to five years. The birds return to the same nest year after year, as long as sap continues to flow around the opening. Since these birds are so picky about their living quarters, protecting their habitat is critical to ensuring their survival.

Boiling Springs Lakes Preserve

Brunswick County may be well-known for popular beach towns like Ocean Isle and Sunset Beach, but botanists hold North Carolina's southernmost county in high regard for an entirely different reason – Brunswick County is home to the greatest number of rare plant species in the state.

Brunswick County is located in the heart of the Cape Fear region, which contains the richest flora along the Atlantic Coast north of Florida. The moderating effects of the Gulf Stream, the high occurrence of natural fires, the considerable amount of marl (limestone) underlying parts of the county, and the wealth of longleaf pine habitats and wetlands contribute to the region's extraordinary plant life.

Boiling Springs Lake wetland complex contains a fascinating cross section of the Cape Fear region's natural communities. Though the area's dense vegetation may look foreboding, this preserve offers a rare glimpse of a vanishing landscape. Located in the town of Boiling Spring Lakes, the natural area contains a mosaic of unusual geologic features. A series of parallel ridges and swales are the remnants of an ancient dune system. A large concentration of Carolina bays (elliptical wetland depressions) studs the landscape. Fire-dependent natural communities, including high and low pocosins (evergreen shrub bogs) and longleaf pine savannas and flatwoods on the ridges and bay rims, form an intricate mosaic of habitats.

Human activities, including development and road building, have fragmented the Boiling Spring Lakes natural area. Years of fire suppression have allowed wood plant growth to invade the open longleaf savannas and overtake many plant species. Conservancy land stewards are actively working to restore the Boiling Spring Lakes Preserve to its natural condition by conducting prescribed burns in longleaf and pocosin communities and replanting longleaf pines.

Located within the incorporated limits of the town that is its namesake, the Boiling Spring Lakes Preserve encompasses half of the incorporated area of the town. The establishment of the Boiling Spring Lakes Preserve is the result of a collaborative partnership between the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Plant Conservation Program, the Nature Conservancy, the City of Boiling Spring Lakes, and the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program. The land is owned by the Plant Conservation Program and is managed by The Nature Conservancy.

In an average natural area, there are eight to ten species of plants growing in one square meter, but in the wetlands of Boiling Spring Lakes there are several times that number! A bounty of rare flora and fauna is found in this landscape, including the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, a variety of carnivorous plants, rough-leaf loosestrife and a variety of orchids. The preserve contains more than 400 vascular plant species, including carnivorous plants such as the rare Venus flytrap. A slide show covering some of the carnivorous plants at Boiling Springs Lakes Preserve is available at

Descriptions of these preserves provided by the Nature Conservancy.


7:00 AM – Depart the JCRA
10:00 AM – Arrive at the Green Swamp Preserve
12:00 PM – Depart for Supply, North Carolina
12:15 PM – Arrive in Supply, North Carolina, Lunch*, Restroom Break**
12:45 PM – Depart for Boiling Springs Lakes Preserve
1:15 PM – Arrive at the Boiling Springs Lakes Preserve
3:15 PM – Depart for the JCRA
6:15 PM – Arrive at the JCRA

*Lunch is on your own. Restaurants in Supply include Hardee's and Subway.
**Restroom facilities will be limited on this trip. There are no bathroom facilities on the bus or at the Green Swamp Preserve and the Boiling Springs Lakes Preserve. Breaks will be taken while en route and for lunch.

$50.00 for members, $80.00 for nonmembers ($30.00 membership included). Transportation is included, but lunch is on your own.
Contact Chris Glenn at (919) 513-7005 to register for this trip. This trip is limited to 25 participants. Registration is considered complete when payment is received.
Green Swamp Preserve and Boiling Springs Lakes Preserve, Brunswick County, North Carolina.
Need directions? Click here.
Free parking is available at the JC Raulston Arboretum and along Beryl Road.
Contact Chris Glenn at (919) 513-7005 or for more information about this trip.