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.


Last updated: April 14, 2015