The Smokey Mountain Forest
By William, Connor, and Abbey
Located in Tennessee and North Carolina
TEMPERATE DECIDUOUS FOREST
Over 1,600 species of flowering plants add to the park's incredible diversity of life.
John Heidecker photo
If allowed only one word to justify the Smokies worthiness as a National Park, that word would be plants. Vegetation is to Great Smoky Mountains National Park what granite domes and waterfalls are to Yosemite and geysers are to Yellowstone.
Variations in elevation, rainfall, temperature, and geology in these ancient mountains provide ideal habitat for over 1,600 species of flowering plants, including 100 native tree species and over 100 native shrub species. From mid-April to mid-May, spring ephemeral wildflowers bloom profusely in the deciduous forests during a brief window of growth before trees leaf-out and shade the forest floor. From mid-June to mid-July, extravagant displays of mountain laurel, rhododendron, azalea, and other heath family shrubs flower en masse, especially on high elevation heath balds.
The park is also a global center for non-flowering plants, including 450 bryophytes-mosses, liverworts, and a few hornworts. Non-flowering species also include some 50 ferns and fern allies and at least one horsetail.
The symbol of the Smokies, the American Black Bear, is perhaps the most famous resident of the park. Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides the largest protected bear habitat in the East. Though populations are variable, biologists estimate approximately 1,500 bears live in the park, a density of approximately two bears per square mile.
Of the 65 other mammal species documented in the park, the white-tailed deer, groundhog, chipmunk, and some squirrel and bat species are the most commonly seen. Over 200 species of birds are regularly sighted in the park, 85 of those migrate from the neotropics.
History of the Great Smoky Mountains National ParkThe Great Smoky Mountains National Park's steep, unforgiving rocky soils hold deep roots to the past. European settlement in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park area first occurred in the 1700s. Cherokee settlement dates back nearly 800 years earlier. The earliest European settlers followed similar land use practices that the Cherokee had adopted. They cleared timber for use in buildings and fences, grazed livestock in the grassy valleys and practiced small-scale agriculture. Little changed for these close-knit communities for over a hundred years.
"Great Smoky Mountains." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 Mar. 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2013.
N.p., n.d. Web.
N.p., n.d. Web.
"Travel & Cultures." National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2013.