Notable New England Natural Areas: Bartholomew’s Cobble
The Trustees of Reservations
In the southwest corner of Massachusetts along the Housatonic River rise two rocky hills from the valley floor and are part of Bartholomew’s Cobble. The 329 acre preserve is named after George Bartholomew, a farmer who owned the area in the late 19th century and the twin rocky hills known as cobbles, probably named after the German word kobel meaning rocks. It was acquired by The Trustees of Reservations in 1946 and preserved.
Some 500 million years ago the rocks that make up the cobble were coral reefs, shells and sand under an inland sea. When the Taconic and Berkshire mountains were formed the layers were pushed upward and flipped over. The cobble is comprised of quartzite, which is acidic, and marble, which is alkaline, creating high variation in soil chemistry that now host over 800 species of plants. And for me the highlight is the fern and fern allies.
On just a few miles of trail you can find 55 species of ferns and their allies. Not only are these plants beautiful, but each of them has their own unique way of reproducing. The Walking Fern (Asplenium rhizophyllum) has long, sword-shaped fronds. When the tip touches moist ground it sprouts a new plant giving the appearance, over time, that the fern is walking across the ground. The graceful Bulbet Fern (Cystopteris bulbifera) grows in large groups on rocky ledges. A small pea-like bulbet is produced on the underside of each pinnae (like leaflets) near the rachis (stem) of the frond. The bulbets drop off and produce new plants. Among the mossy caves and crevasses grow Appalachian Trichomanes or Weft Fern (Trichomanes intricatum). This strange fern has apparently lost the ability to produce a sporophyte (spore bearing stage). It looks more like algae than a fern. Gametophytes, a tiny reproductive body that has both eggs and sperm, are propogated vegetatively.
Whether you seek to view some of the amazing ferns, unique wildflowers, birds, or just a nice view from the hilltop, there is something for everyone at Bartholomew’s Cobble.
From Mass Turnpike (I-90), Exit 2 for Rt. 20 East. Follow 4.6 mi., then take 1st right onto Rt. 102 West/Pleasant St. Go 6.6 mi. Turn left onto Rt. 7 South. After 8.5 mi., turn right onto Rt. 7A and follow for 0.5 mi. Turn right onto Rannapo Rd. and follow for 1.5 mi. Turn right onto Weatogue Rd. to entrance and parking (30 cars) on left.
From Rt. 7 North in Canaan, CT, turn left onto Rt. 7A and cross state border. Turn left onto Rannapo Rd. and follow for 0.8 mi. Turn left onto Weatogue Rd. to entrance and parking on left.
Do you have a favorite gem of a natural area you’d like to share with us? Let me know about your favorite public accessible preserves to feature.