The area known as Dunn’s Mountains (Dunn Mountain by some accounts) just east of Salisbury is one of Rowan County’s most special places. Not only is it the second highest point in the county, but it is also one of the county’s most botanically interesting places.
A great diversity of plants can be found there, including parts of ecological communities known as Granite Flatrock, Piedmont Monadnock Forest, and Flatrock Woodland Glades. The flatrock communities are unique to areas of out cropped granite such as occur sporadically in small areas in the Piedmont of the southeastern United States. Many of the vascular plants are endemic to these communities; that is, they are found only in these communities of restricted occurrence. Flatrock communities, in general, are imperiled because of their rarity and vulnerability.
Granite outcrops have been heavily exploited by the quarrying industry in Rowan County for many years. Very little intact natural flatrock supporting viable outcropped communities exist in Rowan County and the region. Dunn’s Mountain has suffered the impacts of several massive quarrying operations (most recently, in the late 1990s), widespread dumping of trash, rock-building, establishment of exotic species, and clear cut logging. Despite this high level of past disturbance, the mountain still supports some of the best examples of outcropped communities in Rowan County and The Piedmont , and it is also home to several species of rare plants.
Some of the rare endemic species that occur there include elf orpine ( Diamorpha smallii), fame- flower (Talinum teretifolium), sandwort(Arenaria species), in southern anemone (Anemone berlandieri). Also found there are several species that are more typically at home in the Coastal Plain,suggested an interesting affinity to that region. A few rare species previously reported for the mountain have not been seen since the early 1970s and may be extirpated. A number of the above species are included on state and federal lists of rare species.
Time heals wounds in nature. Natural succession proceeds slowly on bare rock and thin soils, but given enough time, and maybe some effort at restoration, much of the mountain should eventually recover and support good representative natural communities. Some of the quarrying scars will remain, however, and will probably not be recovered in any time frame that humans can imagine.
Dunn’s Mountain has been visited and studied by biologists since by at least the 1950s. We have a decent record of biological information about the mountain. In 1994, I ranked Dunn’s Mountains among the top seven sites in Rowan County deserving protection for their natural area value. One of my students, Wes Knapp, completed an update on the biological status of Dunn’s Mountain in 2001 and concluded that it still contains enough elements of natural significance to make it worthy of protection efforts. At least 154 species of vascular plants have now been recorded for Dunn’s Mountains, making it one of the most botanically diverse small areas in the county. But, even more significant is the fact that the mountain represents the largest remaining complex of granite outcroppings and associated habitats in Rowan County.