Lesson Plan

The Cowpens Landscape Today: Native, Exotic, and Invasive Species

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Grade Level:
Third Grade-Eighth Grade
Language Arts, Science History, Visual Arts
Group Size:
Up to 24
in the park
National/State Standards:
SC Sci 3rd I-A; II-A, C; 4th  I-A, II-A, B; 5th I-A; II-A, B; 6th  I-A; II-A, B, C; Soc Stud- 3-1 8-1. ELA 3rd I-C, G, IV-B, D, H; V-A, C; 4th 1-A, G; IV-C, D; V-A, B; 5th I-A, F; IV-A, B, C, G: V-A; 6th I-A,B; IV-A, B, D, I: V-A; Vis Arts - Comp 2, 3


GOAL : To demonstrate to students how exotic and invasive species are changing the Cowpens National Battlefield landscape in context of comparative changes,nationwide.


The student will be able to identify the terms native, exotic (introduced) and invasive as related to plant or animal species.
The student will explain the importance of native plants, and the negative consequences of exotic and invasive species. More specifically, the student will identify native, exotic and invasive species at Cowpens National Battlefield.
The student will recognize the compelling reasons inherent in the National Park Service mandate to return the battlefield to its 1781 appearance.
The student will identify characteristics and problems associated with exotic and invasive species at Cowpens National Battlefield and explain the problems and processes of related management.


Our forests, fields, and bodies of water have been invaded! Invaded, that is, with exotic and invasive plant and animal species. The problem is nationwide, with differing species of exotic or invasive plants and animals altering the ecological balance in various regions. The problem is acute on public lands, especially where resource managers are mandated to return the land to its historical appearance or to keep exotic species from supplanting native plant or animal species.

Cowpens National Battlefield is no exception. At the time of the expansion of the park in the 70s, the National Park Service goal was to return the battlefield to its 1781 appearance. The battlefield has been historically described as a grassy savanna dotted with red oaks, hickories and pines. The grasses at the time were native to the region and most likely included what was described as pea-vine, a rich legume, along with other native grasses.

From the ‘30s to the ‘70s, the park consisted of one acre. Its expansion to 842 acres in the late ‘70s brought additional management problems. Exotic plants were introduced purposefully by area farm families in some instances and by wind and wildlife in others.

On a national scale, exotic species of plants and animals were brought to the United States. These plants or animals, often aggressive in reproduction and without natural predators, create huge imbalances in the ecosystem and threaten biodiversity. Such nonnative species often find a niche and supplant native species, especially those that are endangered. Plant invasions tend to homogenize the world’s flora and fauna.

Native species are often an important part of the food chain. Introduced species interrupt the food chain, crowding out traditional species, even making some extinct. Additionally, introduced weedy species pose problems to farmers and threaten food production. Native plant species are important for medical research (drug sources such as taxol), esthetics, wildlife cover and food.

Tall fesque is one plant that especially overruns pasture or prairie-like areas and supplants native plants. It is a major problem in parks, refuges and preserves. Bringing fesque to the United States left behind its native predators, so that it often now spreads unchecked. As it crowds out native plants, it offers little diversity for a variety of animal life in contrast to the diversity of native plants.

Returning the battlefield to its 1781 appearance gives the park visitor a better understanding of the battle landscape and how grass made it a frontier pasturing ground.



Have students research the description, origin and folklore of the following plant species, all found at Cowpens National Battlefield, indicating whether each is native to the Carolina Piedmont or introduced. Or, students may match the descriptions in the right column with the plant list at the left. Download the plant list. Native vs. Exotic

1. ______Dogwood a. A flower, according to legend, brought to America in hay on the Pilgrim ship, Mayflower.
2. ______Japanese Honeysuckle b. A ground cover found at old home sites. Non-native. Some varieties show promise in cancer treatment.
3. ______Daisy c. A native grass. Early settlers made brooms from this grass.
4. ______Persimmon d. A vine associated with old home-sites. The vines climb trees and houses. Known for its blue-violet purple or white blossoms.
5. ______Tall Fescue e. A non-native tree brought to America by French botanist Andre Micheaux.
6. ______Daffodil f. A non-native grass that covers much of Cowpens National Battlefield (open area) today. Originally from northern Europe, it was imported as winter feed for livestock.
7. ______Broomsedge g. Prolific non-native vine from the Orient. Known for its sweet nectar and yellow to cream colored blossoms.
8. ______Eastern Red Cedar h. A tree known for its resistance to rot and for its pleasant odor. Used often as fence posts.
9. ______Periwinkle i. Large deciduous hardwood tree, with straight-grained wood of a reddish color. Often split as firewood.
10.______Wisteria j. Tree with an orange fruit. Bitter taste until the first frost. Associated with opossums.
11.______Maple k. A yellow flower that blooms in the spring. Found often near old home-sites. Grows from a bulb.
12.______Mimosa l. A native hardwood tree with white modified leaves which are often mistakenly believed to be flowers.
13.______Red Oak m. Any of numerous trees or shrubs of the genus Acer. Known for brilliant fall foliage.


1. Have students walk the battlefield trail and list important native plants, and list introduced or invasive species on another sheet. (Take along guides to grasses, wildflowers and trees.)
2. Have students identify flowers, seeds or methods of plant reproduction observed. Discuss whether reproduction would be relatively easy or difficult.
3. Have students note the extent of coverage of such introduced species as Japanese Honeysuckle.
4. Have students identify any wildlife associations with native or introduced plants. 5. Have students illustrate various plants by either photographing or sketching them.


1. Have students use such sources as The Folklore of Trees and Shrubs or Wildflower Folklore (Laura C. Martin) or Just Weeds: History, Myth and Uses (Pamela Jones) to write a paper on the folklore of a certain species.
2. Have students use such sources as American Wildlife and Plants — A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits (Martin, Zim, and Nelson) to identify wildlife species which feed on certain plants. Identify which part of the plant each feeds on (seeds, fruit, nuts, vegetation.) Draw a map of the United States and shade or color in regions to show the extent of individual plant species.
3. Have students research the introduction and destructiveness of such non-native plant species as fescue, Japanese honeysuckle, purple loosestrife, water hyacinth, Canadian thistle, kudzu; and non-native animal species such as the European wild boar (Sus Scrofa), the gypsy moth, the balsam woolly adelgid (Adelges piceae), and the hemlock woolly adelgid.
4. Discuss student photos and sketches.
5. Have students discuss various National Park Service methods to control alien and invasive species (educating visitors, digging or cutting, herbicide use as a last resort.)