The Serpentine Barrens of Central Maryland produced an interesting landscape for a 19th century business monopoly on chromite ore, being the sole resource for world looking for new metal alloys. In addition to the facinating story of this legacy of chromite ore, the mines also produced a line of fine minerals, brucite, antigorite in fine crystals and the gem variety of serpentine known as “wiliamsite”.
Today, much of the serpentine deposits in Maryland and Pennsylvania serve as a wildlife sanctuary. The serpentine rocks and their serpentine soils were not fit for cultivation, providing a natural host for sparse grasses, scrub brushy oaks and acid loving pine trees. In addition, rare wildflowers are found only in these uncommon serpentine soils. Because these areas were never fit for cultivating, only nice flat farm land has been turned into housing developments, leaving these woodlands free from destruction. At one point in time, these areas of scrub oaks and rocky soil would have looked barren in comparison to the rich tree heavy forests surrounding that land. Now, in contrast to the houses and civilization popping up in every direction, the serpentine barrens are a rich forest
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