Natural History

A Botanical Meeting Ground

The entire Petersburg area, sitting astride two geological and floristic zones, is a fertile botanical meeting ground, where southern species approach their northern limits and Piedmont species edge into the Coastal Plain. Within the Coastal Plain, Petersburg lies along the line separating two major watersheds—the Chesapeake Watershed, which extends north from Petersburg into the Chesapeake Bay, and the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine Region, which runs south from Petersburg into Albemarle Sound in North Carolina. Petersburg’s advantageous location proved a boon to early naturalists such as the Reverend John Banister (1650–1692) who used research from the Petersburg area to advance the state of botanical scholarship.


The Appomattox River, Lieutenant Run, Poor Creek, and other small tributaries to the James River eventually feed into the Chesapeake Bay. Just south of the Appomattox, all creeks flow south and southeast into the Blackwater or Nottoway Rivers and continue into Albemarle Sound.


The eastern cottonmouth snake, or water moccasin, would normally not be found so far north of its predominant southern habitat but it has made its way from the Blackwater-Nottoway drainage to the Petersburg area where it has established a colony along Swift Creek, a tributary to the Appomattox River.

Lily & Pipewort

The Carolina lily is part Virginian, too! It is also native to Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia. In Virginia it ranges from the inner coastal plain westward through the Blue Ridge and beyond, but botanists have not found it north of the James River.

The hairy pipewort, also known as bog buttons, is a member of a family that is primarily tropical and aquatic. It grows in bogs and in low pinelands. This plant reaches its world-wide northern limit in Eastern Virginia.