Davidson-Arabia Mountain and Nature Preserve: Atlanta’s Granite Outcrops, Part 2

This is Part 2 of a 3-Part series on Atlanta’s Granite Outcrops. To learn more about Atlanta’s Granite Outcrops and the unique ecosystems they support, please consider attending our upcoming Speaker Series event with experts from Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve, Panola Mountain State Park, and Stone Mountain.

Speaker Series: Granite Outcrops in Georgia’s Piedmont Region
Thu Feb 24 | 7pm-8:30pm | Trees Atlanta Kendeda Center


Written and photographs by Rosemary Cox, Trees Atlanta certified volunteer TreeSpeaker

Back in 1971, other than the locals, not many people knew about Arabia Mountain. It was a curious expanse of granite rock visible from Klondike Road, covered in broken glass, discarded tires, and rusty tin cans. My sister, a couple of friends, and I used to go swimming in nearby Pole Bridge Creek and then drive over to the mountain to picnic and explore the abandoned quarries: ruins of quarry buildings, and scars left from dynamite blasting for stone, gravel, and granite grit used extensively in the early 20th century for poultry and agricultural production.

But in 1972, things began to change for the better: the Davidson family who had quarried the mountain for decades donated it to DeKalb County. In 1998, two individuals—Becky Kelley (then director of the DeKalb County Parks Department) and environmentalist Kelly Jordan—spearheaded a grassroots movement to establish Arabia Mountain as a Nature Preserve. Then in 2006, Congress designated the 2500 acre preserve and the surrounding environs as a National Heritage Area, including Panola Mountain State Park, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Flat Rock Archives, and AWARE (Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort).

Today, Davidson-Arabia Mountain and Nature Preserve is no longer one of Atlanta’s “best kept secrets.” Preserve Manager Robert Astrove, better known as “Ranger Robby,” stated that during the pandemic, thousands of people visited the Park; as no areas of the mountain are off limits to the public, educating visitors on “best recreational practices” is of utmost importance to protect delicate endemic plant species, particularly those that inhabit the “solution pits” (shallow pools and patches of sand and soil in the rock face).

Besides what Astrove calls “the star of the show”—the Diamorpha smallii—Arabia hosts the threatened black-spored quillwort (Isoetes melanospora) and the endangered pool sprite (Amphianthus pusillus), both the focus of the Arabia Mountain Habitat Restoration Project. When Trees Atlanta volunteers visit the Park this March, the pool sprite should be in bloom, the quillwort will be visible, and the Diamorpha will be in its peak red phase. Yellow blooms from Wooly Ragwort (Packera tomentosa) should also be predominant on the granite outcrops, as well as an array of other spring ephemerals in the wooded areas on the fringes of the granite outcrops. On the rock itself, only trees and shrubs that have adapted to drought conditions in the shallow soil can survive, but even there, the variety is remarkable: loblolly (Pinus taeda), the indigenous Georgia oak (Quercus georgiana), farkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum), and red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) whose common occurrence has nicknamed granite flatrocks “cedar rocks,” according to Robert Wyatt in the New Georgia Encyclopedia.


Posted on: February 23, 2022 (Updated with Corrections: March 7, 2022)