At first glance, the landscape of Jug Handle State Natural Reserve appears fairly ordinary. However, the area is one of the best examples of defined plant communities and corresponding soil types in the Northern Hemisphere, with an “ecological staircase” that comprises five distinct, uplifted terraces. The 2.5-mile Ecological Staircase Trail visits some of the five communities, the highlight of which is the pygmy forest. Occupying a flat terrace, plants of the pygmy forest are stunted by highly acidic soils overlaying a layer of hardpan. A free brochure keyed to 40 numbered posts provides insight into the area’s geology and flora. The trail also allows access to the broad beach of Jug Handle Cove via a short side trail.
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