Woodland Pastures of the Bluegrass and Nashville Basin

Woodland Pastures are naturally occurring ecosystems of huge, open-grown trees shading pastures of grass and herbs. In North America, woodland pastures are found in the Bluegrass of Kentucky and the Nashville Basin of Tennessee.  The habitat was created by drought and bison prior to the arrival of Europeans.  The first settlers chased off the bison and brought in cattle, sheep, and horses but left the trees standing. These enormous old trees still shade these pastures, creating some of the most valuable farmland in the world, the famous horse country of the Bluegrass.  Read about woodland pastures in depth.

The Bluegrass and Nashville Basin are similar ecological regions within the Interior Plateau, in between the Appalachian Mountains to the east and the Mississippi plains to the west.  Both regions are formed from a single rock formation, the thick Ordovician limestone of the Cincinnati Arch.  The limestone rock creates a karst landscape, in which the porous and fractured rock lead to very rapid drainage of rainfall. Even though the Bluegrass and Nashville Basin have plenty of rainfall and fertile soils, they quickly dry out after rain, and streams often dry up within a day or two after heavy rain.  Read more about the geography of the region.

History. The Bluegrass and the Nashville Basin were both settled by Europeans and African slaves in the 1770s.  Both regions were dominated by American bison prior to the arrival of Europeans. While there were settled or itinerant villages of Indians (Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Creeks) in the Nashville Basin, the Shawnee only inhabited the periphery of the Bluegrass.  Evidence indicates that Indians without horses and rifles had difficulty competing with the vast herds of bison. More about the history of the region is in our book Venerable Trees - History, Biology and Conservation in the Bluegrass.

Woodland Pasture

A woodland pasture in Kentucky

Bluegrass (B) in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. Nashville Basin (N) in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.

Bluegrass (B) in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. Nashville Basin (N) in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.