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.
Now I’m thinking I might have a newsflash for you: the majority of the landmass of the southeastern United States was actually a grassland before the settlement of people of European descent took its course. But remember, before European settlement, it was for thousands of years home to millions of Native Americans.
I recently was talking with my old friend, Latimore Smith, a botanist and restoration scientist recently retired from The Nature Conservancy. Although retired from TNC, Latimore continues to be a restoration ecologist extraordinaire and he’s recipient of the 2018 Environmental Law Institute National Wetlands Award for Conservation and Restoration.
I asked Lat how many people he thought actually even know that the South once was mostly a grassland. He said, “Oh, about fifty-three.” He was kidding of course, but the number really is extremely low, even among scientists. Those old grasslands consisted of coastal prairies (2.2 million acres in Louisiana alone!), longleaf pine savannahs and upland woodlands such as what dominated the Upper West Gulf Coastal Plain in Northwest Louisiana. Ecological history is fascinating.
Johnny Armstrong, Author
Rescuing Biodiversity (publishing in June 2023) tells the story of Johnny's attempts at Wafer Creek Ranch to preserve a vanishing Louisiana ecosystem and restore the animal and plant species that once lived there.
“An avowed student of life and restoration ecology, Johnny Armstrong expertly teaches us how to restore an imperiled southern ecosystem based on deep research, firsthand experience, and delighted observation of the species that return to his beloved Wafer Creek Ranch. Driving his devotion is the alarming truth that loss of biodiversity poses a threat on par with climate change and his impassioned belief that society can alter that trajectory, one acre at a time.”
Cindy Brown, Executive Director
Land Trust for Louisiana
“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
Bayou Diversity: Nature & People in the Louisiana Bayou Country
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Shadowshine, An Animal Adventure
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