Eastern Shale Barrens

Submitted by Amanda in Pittsburgh on Thu, 09/26/2013 - 14:24

We are in the process of building a shale barrens in Pittsburgh. (This is a rare eastern desert habitat.)  We are using information from Martha Oliver as well as her Rock Garden Quarterly article (vol 58 #4).  Does anyone have experience building a shale barrens or know of sources for plants and seeds?  See the article for lots of information about shale barrens. 


Submitted by Lori S. on Thu, 09/26/2013 - 19:51

Hi, Amanda.  Welcome to the site!  Sounds like a very interesting project.  What particular species of plants are you looking for?  I know nothing about this habitat and am looking forward to hearing more about it. 

Submitted by RickR on Thu, 09/26/2013 - 22:38

Yes, a very interesting endeavor!

Here's a link to download Vol.58 #4: (a large 15MB pdf)



I was going to list the many plants Ms. Oliver mentions, but as I went through them, I stopped and wondered when she listed Iris verna var. smalliana.  Surely that can't be a desert like plant?  So it's hard to distinguish which are which. (or maybe it's just me?)


Submitted by Novak on Fri, 03/21/2014 - 19:08

Amanda, this sounds like an exciting project. I've never constructed a shale barrens, but I did construct a small limestone barrens in my garden.

As for sources of shale barrens plants, I can offer you some seed or plants of Scutellaria leonardii, grown from seed collected in a shale barrens. It's a cute little thing with blue-purple flowers. It does spread itself around, though not terribly aggressively.

You probably already know about the Sedum ternatum cultivar 'Larenim Park' that came from the shale barrens of that name in West Virginia. That plant is commercially available.

Let me know if you want the Scutellaria. Good luck!