Natural History

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Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park's natural history encompasses the story of its plants, animals, and physical setting—and how all these factors interact (natural processes).

Find out what part each of the following features plays in this large urban park's story.

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Mountain laurel flowersNative Plants

Plants everywhere—which is which, and where does each thrive? Learn about the characteristics of plants native to the Mid-Atlantic region at the boundary of Coastal Plain and Piedmont.

red fox at nightNative Animals

"Who goes there?" And how do these animals' behaviors shape nature at this large urban park?

Ancient river terrace gravel and cobblesPhysical Setting

Rock Creek Park's location at the boundary of Coastal Plain and Piedmont in the Mid-Atlantic gives it a remarkable mix of climate, geologic setting, land shape, water, and soils. Learn how the interplay of these elements provides lots of different niches that support a variety of plant communities.

Shallow roots of American beech on eroded hillsideNatural Processes

Nature doesn’t stand still—animals eat plants, lightning starts fires, floodwaters rise, hills erode, dead trees fall. How do these processes shape natural communities—in the past, present, and future?

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Mountain laurel – Gary Fleming; Red fox – National Park Service; Ancient river terrace gravel and cobbles – Rod Simmons; Shallow roots of American beech on eroded hillside – Sam Sheline