||Stones River National Battlefield, located in Middle Tennessee on the northwestern edge of Murfreesboro, is the site of one of the significant battles of the Civil War. The Battle of Stones
River, fought between December 31, 1862, and January 2, 1863, marked the beginning of the Union Army’s “March to the Sea,” which resulted in Union control of agricultural land and supply networks and prevented further attempts by the Confederate Army to push northward.
Stones River National Battlefield was established in 1927 to preserve this significant historic site. The original property consisted of 344 of the 4,000 acres over which the battle was fought. The park currently encompasses approximately 700 acres. Vegetation and terrain played an important role in the outcome of the Battle of Stones
River. Limestone outcroppings, cedar brakes, and cedar woods dominated the majority of the original park property at the time of the battle. During the battle, the rock outcrops and thick
cedar woods significantly slowed troop progress and impeded rapid movement of artillery pieces. However, the battlefield’s vegetation has not only historical but also botanical and ecological significance. The site is host to a number of rare and endemic plant species and unique plant communities. Today, introduced and exotic plant species have encroached onto many areas of the battlefield. Park managers have identified restoration of native plant communities as a high priority for maintenance of the park’s circa 1862 authenticity. National Park Service personnel have completed a thorough assessment of the vascular flora inhabiting the battlefield property and have targeted approximately 20 native plant species having high priority for use in restoration of plant communities. Those high priority native species are Andropogon ternarius,
Andropogon gyrans, Bouteloua curtipendula, Carex spp. (C. amphibola, C. blanda, C. cherokeensis, C. complanata, C. oxylepis), Chasmanthium latifolium, Dichanthelium spp. (D. dichotomum, D. laxiflorum, D. malacophyllum, D. villosissimum),Eragrostis spectabilis, Leersia
virginica, Melica mutica, Schizachyrium scoparium, Asclepias tuberosa, Aster spp., Eupatorium altissimum, Eupatorium coelestinum, Eupatorium serotinum, Lespedeza violacea, Rudbeckia spp., Solidago spp., and Forestiera ligustrina. The Alderson Plant Materials Center and the National Park Service at Stones River National Battlefield began implementation of a native plant restoration project within the park during 2003. The primary objective of this project is to maintain and/or improve the native plant communities of Stones River National Battlefield. In 2003, Plant Materials Center personnel traveled to Stones River National Battlefield to become familiar with the park’s ecological communities, identify prime seed collection locations for the species of interest, and assess appropriate seed collection techniques and optimum harvest times. Several late summer seed collection trips netted small (less than 0.5 pounds) quantities of seeds from 12 species. All seed was collected by hand-stripping methods. The 12 species represented in the 2003 seed harvest were Andropogon ternarius, Andropogon gyrans, Chasmanthium latifolium,
Dichanthelium spp., Eragrostis spectabilis, Leersia virginica, Schizachyrium scoparium, Symphyotrichum drummondii, Lespedeza violacea, Lespedeza hirta, Rudbeckia triloba, and Solidago nemoralis. All seed harvested was transported to the Alderson Plant Materials Center, where it was conditioned and placed in appropriate seed storage until planting in 2004. In 2004, the Alderson Plant Materials Center produced approximately 20,000 seedlings from the 2003 seed harvest. The seedlings were mechanically transplanted into tilled fields at Stones River National Battlefield to establish seed production fields. Ecologists at Stones River National Battlefield will harvest and use seed from these fields to restore and maintain this historic site’s circa 1862 floristic authenticity.