Soldiers Delight Exhibit Hall Tour

Hello and welcome to the Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area Exhibit Hall Audio tour!

History of the Serpentine Grassland

Serpentine Grasslands in Maryland

Here is a map of central Maryland portraying the areas with serpentine grasslands before and after the European Colonization.

Serpentine grasslands had stretched from the Potomac River all the way up to Pennsylvania.

However, today there are only a few small areas with Serpentine grasslands with the largest area being in the Soldier’s Delight Natural Environment Area.

Before European settlement, tens of thousands of acres of Serpentine grasslands, “Barrens”, stretched across Maryland and Pennsylvania. The grasslands facilitated the growth of many rare plant species that could only grow in sparsely shaded areas. Native Americans maintained the grassland by fire-hunting, keeping woody vegetation in check.

European settlements eliminated large-scale fires, and much of the grasslands were replaced by woodlands, mining, and development.

The remaining barrens cover less than 5% of their original area and are threatened by invading pines and brambles.

William Bose Marye (1886 - 1979)

This displays a painting of a well-dressed William Bose Marye standing in the grasslands of “The Great Maryland Barrens.”

William Bose Marye discovered the mystery of “The Great Maryland Barrens'' by observing the Susquehannock Native Americans and their fire-hunting in the serpentine grasslands and oak savannas.

Their largest fire-hunt was at Soldiers Delight, the largest remaining Serpentine ecosystem in the Eastern United States.

Mr. Marye provided the basis for the restoration of “The Great Maryland Barrens”.

Maintaining the Grassland/Fire Hunting

This is a painting of members of the Susquehannock tribe hunting a herd of scattering deer surrounded by burning grasslands.

Historical research by William Bose Marye indicated that the Susquehannocks maintained the "Maryland Barrens" through frequent fire-hunting, which preserved the prairie-like grasslands and oak savannas.

This painting depicts how a warm afternoon in the fall around 1640 might have appeared.

The Susquehannock tribes of the area would burn large areas of land to force game into smaller areas for easier hunting. This also created open meadows that attracted animals.


Go to Part Two