A summer sea of green covers the gently rolling ridges of southern Appalacians. This magnificent forest is especially impressive in the Great Smokey Mountains. In the rich soil of sheltered valleys (called coves), many species of trees and shrubs reach maximum size. On exposed ridges and plateaus, treeless "balds" are famous for the springtime display of rhododendron and azalea.
The variety of plant species in the Smokies is astounding: more than 158 trees and 1,600 wildflowers have been recorded which ranks this ecoregion among the highest in North America for plant diversity. Tropical species like Filmy Fern as well as Arctic representatives occur in the area. This ecoregion also contains many plants, mammals, salamanders, mussels, and fish that are uniquely native to this area due to millions of years of isolation. Because these mountains were never glaciated, many plants are isolated relics of an ancient botanical community that once stretched across North America to Asia.
Great Smoky Mountains
The Appalachian, Blue Ridge Forest ecoregion has been affected by agriculture, logging, and, most recently, suburban sprawl. Only a few patches of virgin, or old-growth, forest remain, which means that almost all of the forest existing today has regrown after cutting. Younger forests have few, if any, very large trees and generally are not as biologically diverse as old-growth forests.
Places to see this habitat includes:
- Georgia: Chattahoochee National Forest
- North Carolina: Pisgah and Nantahala national forests; Blue Ridge Parkway
- Tennessee: Great Smokey Mountains National Park; Cherokee National Forest; Cove and Harrison Bay state parks
- Virginia: Shenandoah National Park; George Washington and Jefferson national forest
- West Virginia: Monongahela National Forest; Blackwater Falls, Kanawha, and Watoga state parks
Animal life includes:Red Squirrel, Gray Squirrel, Eastern chipmunk, Foxes, Black Bear, White-tailed Deer, Turkey, Pileated woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, Brown Thrasher, Wood Thrush, Solitary Vireo, Hooded, Black-throated Blue and other Warblers, Scarlet Tanager, Cardinal
Plant life includes: Tuliptree, Bitternut and other hickories, American Beech, Chestnut, White Oak, American Basswood, Black Cherry, Downy Serviceberry, Eastern Redbud, Black Tupelo, Yellow Buckeye, Red Maple, White Ash, Rhododendron, Mountain Lorel