The eighth and last member of the Shortleaf Pine-Oak-Hickory Woodland Overstory is the shortleaf pine, Pinus echinata. The seven other members were the fire-resistant hardwood species consisting of the five oaks and the two hickories that I’ve shown in the last two blog posts.
The Grand Potentate of the Overstory
In my previous post I showed you three of the seven upland hardwoods of the shortleaf pine-oak-hickory woodland overstory: post oak, white oak and southern red oak. The seven members are the fire tolerant hardwoods that can thrive in a hot-fire community of grasses and wildflowers, a grassland-under-the-trees groundcover of an open woodland that existed for thousands of years before its demise. It is virtually extinct now, having been destroyed over a time initially beginning with the European invasion that began in the fifteen hundreds and its destruction compounded over the years by the increase of population and technology that sped up the process.
These are the remaining four overstory members: blackjack oak, black oak, black hickory and mockernut hickory. In the next blog I will dwell a bit on the last member, the shortleaf pine, the grand potentate of the overstory.
The overstory consists of relatively fire-resistant trees (recall that this woodland plant community was sustained by periodic hot fires).
There are only eight true card-carrying members of the shortleaf pine-oak-hickory woodland overstory. They are post oak, white oak, southern red oak, black oak, blackjack oak, mockernut hickory, black hickory and the shortleaf pine. The first three are shown in this blog and the others will follow in future blogs addressing woodland grassland restoration.
Post Oak; Quercus stellata
In this post, I’ll begin a discussion of some of the salient features of the shortleaf pine-oak-hickory plant community, the foundation of the ecosystem that I am in the process of restoring. It’s a big project in which I’ve been involved for more than a decade.
This ecosystem was the dominant plant community of the Upper West Gulf Coastal Plain Ecoregion, encompassing northwest Louisiana, southwest Arkansas, northeast Texas and southeast Oklahoma.
Millions of years before Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and email, before telephones and telegraphs and the postal service, the rodent forest-folk of Shadowshine: An Animal Adventure spread their news through the Canopy Connection. It was all they needed to stay informed and up to date.
The Giant Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio cresphontes, is the largest butterfly species in North America. While its North American presence is primarily restricted to the southern United States, its southern native range extends as far as Columbia and Venezuela in northern South America.
PRAIRIE BLAZING STAR Liatris pycnostachya
The above picture is what ecosystem restoration is all about: the rescue of our vanishing biodiversity. What a payback to see that actually unfold over the years—biodiversity increases before your eyes!
My good friend Tom Aswell, author and blogger, recently visited independent bookstore Cottonwood Books in Baton Rouge, LA. One of the first things he saw as he entered the store was a display of Shadowshine right up front.
Store owner Danny Plaisance commented that he had read “about 40-50 pages of the book and that he thought Johnny was a truly gifted writer. “Every author wants me to read his or her book, which is really impossible to do. But I did read some of Shadowshine and I really enjoyed reading it. It’s extremely well-written. He (Johnny) is an excellent storyteller.”
Thank you, Tom, for visiting Cottonwood Books and thank you, Danny Plaisance, for featuring Shadowshine in your store and for your kind words. I am grateful. JA
by Johnny Armstrong, Earth Day 2019
As we enter the time of radical negative impact from the effects of global warming, we must clearly recognize an additional looming menace just as ominous. The ever-increasing rate of global destruction of species and ecosystems is a grave threat of planetary scale. The problem is well described by world preeminent biologist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, E. O. Wilson:
“The on-going mass extinction of species, and with it, the extinction of genes and ecosystems, ranks with pandemics, world war and climate change as among the deadliest threats that humanity has imposed on itself.”
Johnny Armstrong, Author
Now that my 42-year career as a pathologist (which I like to think of as being Columbo behind a microscope), is a story for another time, I’m focusing more time and energy on my long-time passion for and commitment to critical conservation issues. As a first-time published novelist, I’m also discovering the new and sometimes exciting, sometimes baffling world of book promotion. Shadowshine is my first novel.
“Up there on your bookshelf between Tolkien and Watership Down is where this book belongs. As an anthropomorphic adventure that winds through the realm of animals possessing courage, savagery, perseverance, and ultimately wisdom in the face of mounting evil threats – humans disconnected from the natural world – the tale is relevant, if not necessary.”
Kelby Ouchley, author of Bayou Diversity: Nature & People in the Louisiana Bayou Country
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Shadowshine, An Animal Adventure
by Johnny Armstrong
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