Forest Ecosystems Daily: Wolf Mountain Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway

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Sticky false asphodel (Triantha glutinosa) in flower on the left and in fruit on the right, ekes out a living in the wet, dripping rock face on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Wolf Mountain overlook. Many plants take advantage of abundant light and moisture that are available where the road was blasted through to create the Parkway.

Sticky false asphodel (Triantha glutinosa) in flower on the left and in fruit on the right, ekes out a living below the wet, seepy rock face on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Many plants take advantage of abundant light and moisture that are available where the road was blasted through to create the Blue Ridge Parkway. Gorgeous hanging gardens are the happy and unexpected result. New plant for me!

Forest Ecosystems Daily: Carolina Northern Flying Squirrels (i.e., Not all plants all the time)

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Wildlife biologists Summer (L) and Cordie (R) joined us at Roan High Bluff to share their work on data collection methods for the elusive Carolina northern flying squirrel, Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus, a federally endangered specei

Wildlife biologists Summer Higdon (L) and Cordie Diggins (R) joined us at Roan High Bluff to share how they collect data for the elusive Carolina northern flying squirrel, Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus, a federally endangered species. Their niche in these high elevation spruce-fir forests, where they dig for truffles that grow just below the soil surface. At lower elevations, they are unable to compete with the more aggressive southern flying squirrel for nesting sites. They’ve trapped and radio-collared several squirrels at Roan High Bluff, luring them with an enticing recipe of molasses-peanut butter-bacon grease mixed with rolled oats on top of an apple.

Forest Ecosystems Daily: Mountain running adventure

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Sunday was our day off mid-course, so I planned a mountain running adventure on the Bartram Trail. The largest peak is Scaly Mountain, and I took the photo from Jones Gap at my turnaround spot. My car is 2 miles on the other side of Scaly. This is when two thoughts enter your mind: 1)

Sunday was our day off mid-course, so I planned a mountain running adventure on the Bartram Trail. I’d already run from the GA-NC border to Scaly Mountain when I was in Highlands last time, so I planned to run the next section starting at the Osage Mountain overlook. The largest peak is Scaly Mountain, and I took the photo from Jones Gap at my turnaround spot. My car is 2 miles on the other side of Scaly. This is when two thoughts entered my mind: 1) “Wow, I ran ALL THAT WAY!” 2) “And now I have to run back! Aaaaah!!!”

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Adventure, challenge, beauty and solitude…thankful for all these things today.

Forest Ecosystems Daily: Outdoor classroom

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classroom with a view

Our half-day on Saturday took us to the summit of Satulah Mountain to learn about the gnarly plants that can eke out a living on these exposed granite domes. The classroom does not get any better than this! On our hike back, we saw a momma bear and three cubs trying to get into a dumpster at a new home site. 

Forest Ecosystems Daily: Classifying Communities

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At Ellicott Rock National Wilderness, we challenged students to assess the forest community, examining a small plot area in detail. Teams recorded species and percent cover in the canopy, mid-story, shrub, and herb layers, as well as measured the slope, aspect, plot profile and section, elevation, and soil depth and texture. Using a key, we then identified the community as an Appalachian Montane Oak-Hickory Forest (Typic Acidic Type). Knowing the community type can help protect rare species, for example, and are critical for conservation. [Plus, plants don’t run away.]

Forest Ecosystems Daily: Forest cathedral

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joyce kilmer hiking

No visit to the southern Appalachians is complete without a visit to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, near Robbinsville, NC. If you look carefully, you can see several attributes of old growth cove hardwood forests: very large trees, a diverse understory of wildflowers, and trees of many sizes. Joyce Kilmer is one of the last remnants of old growth cove hardwood forest in the East. Walking among these forest giants is a spiritual experience.

Forest Ecosystems Daily: Giant shortleaf pine

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shortleaf ancient

This shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) is thought to date back to 1684. We hiked through a stand containing 200-300 year old trees along the Goldmine Trail, off the Foothills Parkway in the Smokies. The National Park Service found a reference stand of older shortleaf pine here, and they are now working to restore the 10 year fire interval. More info about the project: http://bit.ly/1VGyNz3

Forest Ecosystems Daily: Saving Our Ashes

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Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) killed this white ash tree in Cades Cove. The invasive and exotic beetle has spread rapidly since it was first detected in Michigan in 2002.

Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) killed this white ash tree in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The invasive and exotic beetle from southeastern Asia has spread rapidly, eliminating ash from Eastern forests since it was first detected in Michigan in 2002. Park boundaries cannot prevent the spread of invasive insects and diseases that harm our forests. You can help by using locally-sourced firewood. More information: http://www.emeraldashborer.info/

Forest Ecosystems Daily: Adventures in heath balds

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Today's adventure took us off-trail in search of a secret heath bald. Determined bushwacking, which involved some crawling, took us up and into the

Today’s adventure took us off-trail in search of a secret heath bald. Determined bushwacking, crawling through Rhododendron woven together with sawbriar, we made our way upslope as the canopy around us shrunk and the trees disappeared. We emerged into the open sunlight surrounded by the many evergreen shrubs that form a heath bald. We recorded 3 Rhododendrons, 2 Kalmias, and 1 highbush blueberry, which we sampled, before making our way back down, feeling the accomplishment of ecological explorers.

Forest Ecosystems Daily: Turk’s Cap Lily, Whiteside Mountain

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Opportunity. Our first hike took us to Whiteside Mountain to see different plant communities on this ancient granite pluton.  We stopped at dripping cliff face, one that will freeze over in great ice sheets in winter. These ice sheets

Plants are opportunists. Most of Whiteside Mountain is covered with secondary forest that grew up after logging in the mid-1900s. However, some of the steeper rock faces have openings where ice accumulates, then collapses under its own weight, taking soil and vegetation with it. The openings channel water and create sunny habitat for the spectacular Turk’s cap lily (Lilium superbum).