NC Outer Banks

This past week the SOS East group visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We started on Hatteras Island after a 4 hour drive from our home base in Chapel Hill. Meeting up in separate vehicles at the Hatteras Lighthouse parking lot, we drove together to the Buxton Woods Coastal Preserve to begin our day of site monitoring, species identification, and seed collection.

We started off by getting a good sense of the diversity in plant species at the site. In the tidal marsh area on the Sound side of the island, we saw lots of potential. With big populations of Typha angustifolia and latifolia, Juncus roemerianus, and Schoenoplectus americanus, among others, this is sure to be a fantastic spot to return to in the coming months.


During this particular visit, we split into pairs and collected both Juncus roemerianus (Black Needle Rush) and Schoenoplectus americanus (Chairmaker’s Bulrush). The Juncus, for those of you who are not familiar, is strikingly dark in color when seen in large patches, and you may be able to point it out in the image above in the background on the right. It also requires gloves and at the very least some thick pants and sleeves to protect your skin from the needle-sharp leaves. The Schoenoplectus, on the other hand, is easy to collect from, with seed heads neatly arranged near the tip of the waist-high plant in easy to see clusters.

Our next stop was way up north, almost two hours up NC 12 along the Atlantic coast on Pine Island, just North of Duck and Kill Devil Hills. There we stayed at the Pine Island Sanctuary and spent the afternoon and following morning surveying and collecting more seeds. We ended up collecting an impressive amount of berries from Vaccinium fuscatum (Black Highbush Blueberry). Although not as tasty as our store bought (or farm fresh) Vaccinium corymbosum, this berry is abundant on its bush, and was a nice treat for us in the heat of our hot NC summer. We also made collections of Juncus effusus and Eleocharis fallax.

As we prepared for our next site, I found this little guy on my car:


Our next stop was Currituck Banks Estuarine Preserve, further north on NC 12. Although we weren’t able to see any of its famed wild horses on the beach, or its elusive wild boars, we did see lots and lots of stunning panoramic views from atop its sandy dunes!


Here we began a collection, the following morning, of Prunus serotina (Black Cherry). Despite the name, care should be taken if the berries are eaten. Any bit of the seed that is crushed by your teeth while eating the flesh will release enzymes that can convert the harmless amygdalin (found in the flesh), to cyanide. So don’t chew on the seeds!

The other beautiful view we got during our time there was in what I understand to be a maritime forest. Lots of interesting trees here!


Our last stop was Kitty Hawk Woods, where we had a nice hike through the woods to the Sound Side, accompanied by a student Intern from the University of Mars Hill in the mountains just north of Asheville, NC. We will be sure to return for more surveying, collecting, and good company.

Until next time.


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