Rare Plants and Habitats
Hidden Beauty: Rare plants & Significant Habitats of C&O Canal National Historical Park
Treasures of the C&O Canal NHP
C&O Canal NHP is home to approximately 1,200 species of native plants. Park records include more than 150 plants listed as rare, threatened or endangered in Maryland and the District of Columbia. This represents one of the highest concentrations of state-listed rare plants in the eastern U.S. Several are GLOBALLY rare, and some occur here because they are dependent upon special habitats and ecological conditions present along the Potomac River.
The canal begins just below the fall line and winds its way westward along the Potomac River, transecting the Piedmont, Blue Ridge, and Ridge & Valley physiographic provinces.
...As a result, a variety of geologic formations are exposed, supporting diverse native plant communities.
Areas along the Potomac River are subjected to frequent floods, causing canopy gaps, scouring and deposition.
...As a result, this changing environment creates a diversity of habitats, and therefore, diversity of organisms.
Distributions of many northern and southern plant species overlap the Potomac River. Also, isolated populations of western species survive where rare prairie habitat persists along the river
...As a result, rare species occur here that are known from few other places in the Mid-Atlantic region, adding to the great diversity of this area.
Did you know?
It is against federal law to pick, dig or otherwise collect plants in the park
Staying on officially marked trails helps prevent damage to and trampling of native vegetation, including rare plants.
Dumping yard waste in parks introduces non-native plants to fragile ecosystems
How You Can Help
Don't pick or dig plants.
Don't hike off trails
Don't dump waste or refuse in parks
Cooperation in Protection
This project is made possible by a generous grant from Canon USA, Inc., through the National Park Foundation.
Did You Know?
Most freight boats on the C&O Canal were approximately 95 feet long and 14.5 feet wide while most locks were 100 feet long and 15 feet wide. This left boat captains little margin for error as they steered their boats into the locks, trying to avoid the $5.00 fine for damaging lock masonry.