While it’s not a state park, Couchville Cedar Glade State Natural Area is next to Long Hunter State Park about 30 minutes east of Nashville. (1) It’s managed by the park’s staff along with the Division of Natural Areas and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Couchville Cedar Glade is one of 84 state natural areas in Tennessee. (2) While researching these areas, I wasn’t surprised to learn that they’re meant to protect a wide range of habitats and the plants and animals that live in them. (3) But I thought this additional description of their purpose was interesting: “Natural areas represent some of Tennessee's best examples of intact ecosystems and serve as reference areas for how natural ecological processes function.” (4) I’ve never thought of a habitat or landscape as a “reference” resource that scientists might study like they would a scholarly paper.
Couchville Cedar Glade became a state natural area in 1995. (5) It features cedar glades and barrens. (6) A limestone cedar glade is a unique ecosystem where trees don’t grow; it also features endemic plants, or plants that only grow in the glades. (7) You can read a more thorough description of the landscapes featured at Couchville here.
If you’re driving to the Bryant Grove area of Long Hunter State Park, you’ll pass the Couchville Cedar Glade SNA on South Mount Juliet Road. (8) Look for the small gravel parking lot in front of the trailhead.
A couple of weeks ago, I walked the almost one-mile loop trail through this SNA. (9) A small covered bench is not far from the trailhead and features a panel that gives some great information about glades and barrens. On this panel, I also read about Tyler Alley Sykes, a conservation biologist who passed away in 2002. (10) This trail is known as the Tyler Sykes Trail or Cedar Glade Trail. (11)
You can see the different landscapes along the trail:
Some endemic flowers were blooming when I visited. I recognized (left to right below) Nashville Breadroot, Tennessee Milkvetch, and Rose Verbena. (12)
I think I found a type of phlox and a type of stonecrop (left to right below). (13)
I’m not sure what these are:
There are two short wooden bridges along the trail. Near the first, I found Columbine, a distinctive flower with orangish-red petals that look like a multi-prong crown. Underneath, the petals form hollow tubes that look like a second hidden flower. (14) (The first picture is a bit blurry; it was very windy!)
I’ve read that this is a good place to see Tennessee coneflowers, but they won’t bloom until later in the summer. (15) When you visit, make sure you stay on the trail to protect this special habitat. Look for the arrows on short wooden stakes pointing the way. Maybe I’ll see you out there!
Informational panel on pavilion along Cedar Glade Trail at Couchville Cedar Glade SNA.
https://www.mtsu.edu/glade-center/fieldguide.php ; https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ASTE7 ; “Endemic Plants of the Cedar Glades” poster from MTSU’s Center for Cedar Glade Studies
https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/environment/program-areas/na-natural-areas/natural-areas-middle-region/middle-region/couchville-cedar-glade.html ; https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=r430