• Atlantic Ocean beach at Cape Cod National Seashore

    Cape Cod

    National Seashore Massachusetts

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  • Access at seashore locations

    Sections of the boardwalk at the Red Maple Swamp Trail have been closed due to structural deterioration and safety concerns. Check at Salt Pond Visitor Center for the current status of this trail, and for your safety, remain out of closed areas.

Coastal Heathlands

There are many different coastal grassland and heathland assemblages found among the sandplains of Cape Cod. Heathlands are areas where low growing shrub species dominate the vegetation cover. They generally occur on well drained, acidic soils. The coastal heathlands of Cape Cod National Seashore are home to a number of globally rare species. Heathland assemblages on Cape Cod are characterized by the presence of broom crowberry as well as other low growing shrubs and often contain a wide variety of forbs, grasses and lichens.

 
Broom Crowberry

Broom crowberry's woody consistency and short stature make it a dwarf shrub. While locally common, the species is globally rare.

Photo by Kirsten Martin

Broom crowberry is a regionally endemic plant that is found in coastal sandplain communities from New Jersey to Newfoundland. It is listed as a Species of Special Concern by the state of Massachusetts. Cape Cod has long harbored some of the largest and best known populations of broom crowberry, with descriptions by early settlers depicting carpets of the plant and healthy seedling recruitment. Unfortunately many of the populations on Cape Cod and the surrounding islands are aging and it is unknown if recruitment is sufficient to maintain these populations. Current broom crowberry research efforts are focused on seed dispersal and fire management and hope to shed more light on the subtle ways in which the plant species interacts with and persists in its environment.

Did You Know?

Highland Light

The original Highland Light was built in 1797, becoming the first lighthouse on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It had 24 whale oil lamps set in 2 circles, one on top of the other with the reflector behind.