soil derived from serpentine parent rock material that has high levels of nickel (Ni). chromium (Cr). and magnesium (Mg) and low levels of calcium (Ca). available magnesium (Mg). and available major plant nutrients.
Serpentine soil is an uncommon soil type produced by weathered ultramafic rock such as peridotite and its metamorphic derivatives such as serpentinite. More precisely, serpentine soil contains minerals of the serpentine subgroup, especially antigorite, lizardite, and chrysotile or white asbestos, all of which are commonly found in ultramafic rocks. The term "serpentine" is commonly used to refer to both the soil type and the mineral group which forms its parent materials.
Serpentine soils exhibit distinct chemical and physical properties and are generally regarded as poor soils. The soil is often reddish, brown, or gray in color due to its high iron and low organic content. Geologically, areas with serpentine bedrock are characteristically steep, rocky, and vulnerable to erosion, which causes many serpentine soils to be rather shallow. The shallow soils and sparse vegetation lead to elevated soil temperatures and dry conditions. Due to their ultramafic origin, serpentine soils also suffer from a low calcium-to-magnesium ratio and lack many essential nutrients such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Serpentine soils contain high concentrations of heavy metals, including chromium, iron, cobalt, and nickel. Together, these factors create serious ecological challenges for plants living in serpentine soils.