Study finds globally rare plants and habitat on White Horse Mountain

Eight-acre Rock Dome Preserve is home to imperiled wildflowers and rare types of wildlife habitat

Sandstone glade.JPG

The chance to save a place like White Horse Mountain, with its hardwood forests and shaded streams, doesn’t come around often. As one of the largest pieces of undeveloped forestland remaining in our region, we knew from the start that White Horse was something special.

Now, in addition to protecting the 1,725-forested acres of White Horse, we’re also permanently protecting the globally rare habitat and plants found on adjacent Rock Dome Preserve.

It’s only eight acres, but it’s eight acres we’re really excited to protect.

Earlier this year, West Virginia’s chapter of the Nature Conservancy donated Rock Dome to Potomac Conservancy as a contribution toward our White Horse Mountain project. A conservation easement will protect White Horse Mountain and adjacent Rock Dome Preserve from development and degradation forever.

Rare finds at Rock Dome
Named for the dome-like shape of the 400-million-year-old sandstone that makes up the area, Rock Dome includes three types of rocky habitat rare in West Virginia and throughout the world: sandstone glades, acidic glades, and sandstone cliffs.

Critically imperiled Eastern fameflower

Critically imperiled Eastern fameflower

A recent study of the property also found that the area supports two types of rare wildflowers. The oldfield toadflax is considered imperiled in the state of West Virginia, and the eastern fameflower is listed as critically imperiled, meaning the flower is extremely rare.

imperiled oldfield toadflax

imperiled oldfield toadflax

A rare flower is gone, for now...
State biologists suspect that the area used to support another rare wildflower, two-flower melicgrass, but that expansion of an adjoining road destroyed the population. Hopefully, we can get it back.

The conservation easement that Potomac Conservancy is putting in place will protect the oldfield toadflax and eastern fameflower from a similar fate by restricting development and timber harvesting, and only allowing scientists and researchers access to critical habitat areas.  

Protecting this imperiled nature
Protecting an entire mountain has been no small feat. In fact, it's been years in the making!

Potomac Conservancy’s Senior Director of Land Conservation, Emily Warner, is ensuring all the amazing features of White Horse and Rock Dome will be protected forever through a conservation easement, a legal document that’s bound to the land in perpetuity. The terms of its legal protections could mean life or death for rare plants like the toadflax or fameflower.

Emily's behind-the-scenes work has included developing a report that details all the things on White Horse and Rock Dome worthy of protection. The 102-page document required five days of field work and over 200 pictures. The draft easement itself has gone through 16 iterations with West Virginia officials, and the easement is just one of many legal documents that goes into a land deal such as this.

It’s a time consuming process, but it’s worth it to know the land and waters of White Horse and Rock Dome will always be protected.

Thanks to the philanthropic support of hundreds of local donors, we’ve raised more than 90 percent of the required funds to save White Horse. Once the final funds are raised and the legal documents complete, White Horse Mountain will be turned over to West Virginia to become the area’s newest public land.

Contribute to our fight to protect Rock Dome on White Horse Mountain!


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