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Center for Cedar Glade Studies

What is a Cedar Glade

When settlers first came into the mid-south, they noticed places where there were no trees. They called these places “glades”.

When scientists study these locations, they find more differences than similarities, and have classified these treeless habitats into three categories, all three of which exist in middle Tennessee.

  • Limestone Cedar Glades
  • Xeric (dry) Limestone Prairies
  • Barrens

This page is based on the work of Jerry M. Baskin, Carol C Baskin, and Edward W. Chester from their article, “The Big Barrens Region of Kentucky and Tennessee: Further Observation and Considerations.” [Castanea 59: 226-254 (1994).]

Limestone Cedar GladesXeric Limestone PrairiesBarrens
Naturally treeless due to very shallow soil and resulting extreme micro-climateCleared of trees by native people by periodic burning.Cleared of trees by native people by periodic burning.
Many of the plants found are endemic, i.e. they are found only in cedar gladesPlants found here are also found in many other places.Plants found here are also found in many other places.
Plant life dominated by non-woody plantsHabitat succeeds to woody plants.Habitat succeeds to woody plants.
Plants adapted to the extreme micro-climate are found such as winter annuals and plants which form spores (cryptogams)Adaptations not found.Adaptations not found.
Plant succession limited by the extreme geologic conditions.Plant succession proceeds but at a slow rate.Plant succession proceeds at a normal pace.

In Tennessee, Limestone Cedar Glades are found mostly in the Inner Central Basin in Davidson, Wilson, and Rutherford Counties. Xeric Limestone Prairies are found on the borders of these glades. Barrens are found primarily on the Highland Rim.

map adapted from William J. Wolfe, “Hydrology and Tree-Distribution Patterns of Karst Wetlands at Arnold engineering Development Center,” USGS

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Middle Tennessee State University
Center for Cedar Glade Studies
Department of Biology 
PO Box 60
Murfreesboro, TN 37132
615.904.8283 (phone for Kim Cleary Sadler)