Red Mountain Park Biodiversity

Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) bark in winter
- Photo Credit: R. Scot Duncan
Littlehip Hawthorn bark (Crategus spathulata)
- Photo Credit: R. Scot Duncan
Turkey Tail fungi (Trametes versicolor)
- Photo Credit: R. Scot Duncan
Greenbrier vine (Smilax sp.) in winter
- Photo Credit: R. Scot Duncan
Damaged Oak, young Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
- Photo Credit: R. Scot Duncan
Path through winter forest
- Photo Credit: R. Scot Duncan
Post Oak (Quercus stellata) with ferns
- Photo Credit: R. Scot Duncan
White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) rubbing
- Photo Credit: R, Scot Duncan
Resurrection Fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides)
- Photo Credit: R. Scot Duncan
Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana) canopy
- Photo Credit: R.Scot Duncan

Bigger is better when it comes to protecting habitat for plants and animals, and at 1,300 acres, Red Mountain Park is the biggest urban park in Birmingham and one of the largest urban parks in the world. Because larger parks have more resources and a more diverse ecology than smaller parks, they support more species and larger populations than smaller parks.

That said, the ecosystems of Red Mountain Park have been through some rough times. Most forests were cut down, erosion stripped away topsoil, mine tailings were dumped, mining towns were built, and the mountain slopes were pitted with mine portals and crisscrossed with tracks and roads.

But nature began reclaiming the mountain when the mines were abandoned. Trees established, surviving wildflower populations spread, and wildlife migrated back to the mountain. Today, Red Mountain Park supports many acres of beautiful – but still young – deciduous forest. A separate article describes Red Mountain’s forests in more detail.

Unfortunately, some of the species that staked a claim on the mountain are among the worst exotic species to invade the South, especially Kudzu and Chinese Privet. In many places in the park, these two species grow so quickly and thickly that most native plants and wildlife don’t stand a chance.

As biologists explore the park, they are finding many surprises. These include the relic stands of Longleaf Pines and vernal pools that attract thousands of amphibians for breeding.

As the park’s ecosystems recover, the returning nature helps to protect people and improve their way of life. Forested slopes absorb rainwater and reduce flash flooding in the valleys. The lush vegetation on the mountain keeps surrounding neighborhoods cooler in the summer. Forests filter the air of dust and other harmful particulates. And not insignificantly, the park’s forests provide people with an escape urban life, whether they come to play, exercise, or study nature.