Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tenacious Trees

Hiking along a high elevation ridge in Grayson Highlands, I
happened upon these trees when I bushwhacked off trail to photograph some wildflowers. Both of these hardwoods started their lives wedged into solid rock. Unyielding stone was about the only thing remaining in this high country after the logging companies cut all of the forests off. Subsequently, a drought followed, which in turn caused hellish wild fires that burned not only the trash and young trees left by the lumbermen, but also the very soil. After that, flash floods raked the peaks and scoured off anything that could be considered dirt.

That left just rocks as a
substrate for plants to use. This they have done in the more than 100 years since the timber companies left this land in total ruin. To date, the mountains here are still relatively bare of mature forest cover, but there are some groves of trees and vast meadows of grasses, stunted spruce and birch, and shrubs of various types.

Even if they have to live their lives clinging to boulders, the trees find a way to live and thrive.

It may take several hundred more years, but barring renewed attacks on the forest by Mankind, it will eventually recover. This will mean that the high peaks and ridges will once more be cloaked in vast, dark forests of Spruce-fir trees and various northern hardwood types. It will take a very long time indeed to replace the soil and to reestablish the groves that once thrived on some of the highest lands in the Southern Appalachians.

But as you can see, the forests are willing and able.

A red spruce has fallen and taken out a weakened hardwood.


Vicki said...

Tenacious indeed. I hope you're right about the forest recovering.

James Robert Smith said...

It's slowly recovering. Considering that the forests that are there now are the result of more than 100 years of recovery, I wouldn't feel out of line in saying that it will be 500 years or so for the groves there to resemble their virgin forest counterparts who were destroyed.