KEITH FOREST

UP2Save is proudly assuming stewardship responsibility for this ecological treasure of statewide significance.  We are developing programs and opportunities to inspire and engage visitors to the forest, and to generate a deep appreciation for this place and the ecological health that it represents, for generations to come. 

The Inventory of Natural Areas and Wildlife Habitats for Orange County, North Carolina (1988, updated 2004) highlights the natural qualities of this site:

Natural Communities: Dry-Mesic Oak--Hickory Forest; Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest; Piedmont Monadnock Forest

This is the largest tract of chestnut oak forest in the county; it is second only to Occoneechee Mountain in therms of the maturity of the canopy and the density of its heath cover. The abundant forage provided by this forest together with the size of this tract helps to explain the presence of wild turkey and bobcat. It serves as both an important wildlife reservoir and an overland link between two stream corridor systems: Morgan Creek and Cane Creek. This is one of the more scenic knobs located within the rural buffer due to its high visibility from several nearby roads. 

This site is about 500 acres of mainly undisturbed upland hardwood forest located along the headwaters of Morgan Creek and Cane Creek. The flat summit of Pickards Mountain and the upper slopes support a chestnut oak forest covering at least 150 acres. This forest is surprisingly mature, with stems averaging approximately a foot in diameter, one excellent specimen measured three feet. Along with the dominant chestnut oak Quercus prints), other canopy trees are white oak (Q. alba), black oak (Q. velutina), scarlet oak (Q. coccinea), post oak (Q stellate), blackjack oak (Q. marilandica), southern red oak (Q. faclacta), and pignut hickory (Carya glabra). Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) and red maple (Acer rubrum) are prominent in the understory, with scattered red cedar (Juniperus virginiana).  Some of the herbs that indicate dryness of the site are goat's rue, veined hawkweed, and reindeer lichen. Particularly noteworthy, the shrub layer in this forest is composed of dense thickets of heaths, quite comparable to similar communities found on the summit of Occoneechee Mountain (highest point in Orange County), although lacking in some of the species of the montane chestnut oak community, such as mountain laurel, galaxy, and bracken fern.

Farther downslope the forest grades into a dry-mesic oak-hickory forest with a mesic mixed hardwood forest occurring along the small streams. The latter supports beech (Fagus grandifolia), tulip polar (Liriodendron tulipifera), Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and oaks. The large ravine located on the east slope held water even at the height of the 1988 drought, and supports a luxuriant growth of ferns over most of its length; species present include lady fern, royal fern, cinnamon fern, grape fern, and sensitive fern.