Southern Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Needle palm (Rhapidophyllum histrix). Photo by Ryan Shurette, U.S. Forest Service.
Needle palm (Rhapidophyllum histrix) emerging from the ground. Photo by Ryan Shurette, U.S. Forest Service.
White milkweed (Asclepias variegata). Photo by Ryan Shurette, U.S. Forest Service.
Cranefly orchids (Tipularia discolor). Photo by Ryan Shurette, U.S. Forest Service.
The bumblebee-mimicking robber fly, Laphria flavicollis. Photo by Ryan Shurette, U.S. Forest Service.
Bartram Botanical Area
Forest: National Forests in Alabama
District: Tuskegee Ranger District
Description: The Bartram Botanical Area is located in the Tuskegee National Forest, in Macon County Alabama. At just over 11,000 acres, the Tuskegee is the nation’s smallest National Forest, and was part of the Submarginal Land Program purchase in the 1930s. Despite being almost completely cutover in the early 1900s, the Tuskegee today hosts many natural forest systems that are indicative of the upper East Gulf Coastal Plain. Due to its unique assemblage of native plant species, one particular portion of the District was designated as a Botanical Area. The Bartram Botanical Area is represented by two completely different plant communities: xeric pine sandhills on the uplands and mesic hardwood bottoms along Choctafaula Creek. The Bartram National Recreation Trail (named for the famous explorer William Bartram) transects the area and is a convenient way to view the flora and wildlife of the area.
Wildflower Viewing: In the pine sandhill areas along the trail, native warm season grasses like little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and splitbeard bluestem (Andropogon ternarius) are abundant in open areas. You can view white milkweed (Asclepias variegata) from the upland portions of the trail in spring. In late summer, species like fragrant goldenrod (Solidago odora), blazing star (Liatris sp.), and iron weed (Vernonia sp.) bloom in the open uplands. Most of the designated Botanical Area, however, lies within the shaded hardwood bottom that runs along Choctafaula Creek. Here shade-tolerant species such as trilliums (Trillium spp.), cranefly orchids (Tipularia discolor), and southern magnolias are common. This area also supports a population of needle palm (Rhapidophyllum histrix) and spruce pine (Pinus glabra). The humid bottoms are also a good place to birdwatch and “bugwatch”. Look for interesting insect species like the phantom crane fly (Bittacomorpha clavipes), the ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata), and the bumblebee-mimicking robber fly (Laphria flavicollis).
Safety First: General outdoor safety guidelines apply for this part of the Tuskegee National Forest. Watch out for venomous snakes and stinging insects in warm weather. There is plenty of uneven topography in the Bartram Botanical Area so watch your footing. Scattered natural snags (standing dead trees) are always present in the forests so keep an eye out for them, especially in windy conditions. The trail also crosses several small tributaries where the wooden bridges can be slippery.
Directions: The Tuskegee Ranger District is located in Macon County, Alabama. To visit the Bartram Botanical Area, from Auburn, Alabama, take I-85 west approximately 8 miles to Hwy 186 (Wire Road, Exit 42), travel southeast on Hwy 186 for approximately 0.10 miles to the intersection of 186 and County Road 53. Turn right (southwest) on CR 53 and continue for approximately 3 miles. The parking lot for the Bartram Trail is on the left side of the road at the intersection of CR 53 and FSR 913. From Montgomery, take I-85 east approximately 30 miles to Exit 42, and then follow the directions above.
Ownership and Management: USDA Forest Service, National Forests in Alabama, Tuskegee National Forest, Tuskegee Ranger District.
Nearest Town: Tuskegee, Alabama.