Nestled in southwest Chester County near the Maryland line are several patches of a unique ecosystem called serpentine barrens. One example is found at Nottingham County Park. Dedicated in September 1963, Nottingham Park was the first Chester County park. The 731-acre park sits atop an outcropping of serpentine stone greater than one square mile in size – one of the largest serpentine barrens on the East Coast. It features former feldspar and serpentine quarries, and numerous former chromite ore mines. The National Park Service recognized Nottingham Park as a National Natural Landmark in 2008.
Nottingham Park offers nine pavilions, an 18-station fitness trail, and three modern, handicapped accessible playgrounds. To experience the serpentine barrens, one must wander around some of the trails in the park.
Serpentine, a geological outcrop of rare, light-green rock found only in three small geographic areas in all of North America, has soil so low in essential nutrients and so high in some metals that most ordinary plants will not grow. The barrens have their own community of plants, some of them globally-rare, with practically no species in common with the surrounding forests and fields. Typically, serpentine barrens contain scrub oak, pine, cedar and unique wildflowers. Some areas dominated by grasses are known as true prairies. Some areas with scattered trees are known as a savannah, which can survive and prosper with occasional fires.