« PreviousContinue »
Basswood, Black Walnut, and Maple. The merchantable softwoods, of which there are comparatively few, are chiefly Shortleaf Pine, White Pine, and Hemlock. They seldom predominate in the mixture, but occur by groups and single trees, the Shortleaf Pine in the larger valleys and on the foothills, the White Pine confined chiefly to coves and intermediate low ridges in the Blue Ridge, and the Hemlock along the streams and on the lower slopes of the mountain valleys. The latter, although much less common than farther north in the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia, on account of the increased number of faster-growing trees with which it has to contend, probably reaches in this region a larger size than anywhere else within its habitat.
The many kinds of trees native to this portion of the Southern Appalachians, and the fact that most of them have a wide local range, renders the forest exceedingly varied and makes it difficult to classify it into types except in a very broad and general way. The Oaks, among which the White Oak is most frequent, form the chief part of the forest growth up to an elevation of about 2,500 feet. With them are mixed the Shortleaf Pine, the Ilickories, and a host of subordinate kinds, among which the Black Gum and Red Maple are most common in moist situations, the Basswood, Birches, Ashes, Yellow Poplar, and Cucumber Tree on fresh soils, and the Chestnut, Locust, Dogwood, and Sourwood on south slopes and in dry localities generally.
At an elevation of 2,500 to 3,500 feet the number of the Oaks decreases and Yellow Poplar, Hemlock, Birch, Beech, Ash, Black Walnut, and Cherry reach their best development and predominate especially in coves and hollows with a northerly aspect. (Pl. XXXIX.)
Above 3,500 feet the forest falls off both in the number of different kinds of trees and in their size and quality. The Chestnut, Chestnut Oak, and Red Oak are the characteristic trees of this belt and occur almost pure on dry, steep slopes and ridges. Finally, at about 4,000 feet, dense woods of Black Spruce and Balsam Fir cover the ground to the exclusion of all other trees and reach to the mountain tops, except on the "balds," the local term for those mountains, the crests of which are occupied by natural meadows.
The general type of these forests, except where modified by lumbering or fire, or by both, is that of the virgin forest, exceedingly irregular in age and density. On the lower slopes, where the Oak prevails and where logging for timber and firewood has long been carried on, and which also have suffered from excessive grazing and repeated fires, the forest consists largely of second growth, seldom over forty years old. Above this second growth, in which a constant struggle goes on between the Oaks and the Shortleaf Pine, the latter holding its own almost everywhere and having the upper hand on the