Pamunkey—State Soil of Virginia

(Conservation Currents, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, March 2003)

You probably know that the state flower of Virginia is the dogwood because you see it on signs and license plates. You may know that the state bird is the cardinal. But how many of us can identify the state soil? Each state in the United States has selected a state soil, fifteen of which have been established legislatively. Virginia’s state soil is Pamunkey.

Areas with similar soils are grouped and labeled as soils series because their similar origins and their chemical and physical properties cause the soils to behave similarly for land use purposes. A soil series name generally is derived from a town or landmark in or near the area where the soil series was first recognized.

A soil series is a naturally occurring entity on the landscape. Therefore, a given series does not necessarily occur within the confines of only one state. Several state soils range beyond the respective states in which they are honored.

In Virginia, Pamunkey formed in stream terrace sediments in the James River drainage basin. These sediments are from every physiographic province in the Commonwealth. The farm where the Pamunkey soils were first identified is near Jamestown. It is considered to be the oldest tilled farm in the United States. It is very likely that the first settlers at Jamestown were able to survive because of the food they produced on these fertile soils. The Pamunkey Tribe and other Indian tribes were the first people to recognize the natural ability of this soil to produce food. In recent years these soils have produced record yields of corn and wheat.

You won’t find Pamunkey in Fairfax County. To learn about the soils you will find here, visit NVSWCD’s soils information page.

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