Mountain Nature: A Seasonal Natural History of the Southern Appalachians

Mountain Nature: A Seasonal Natural History of the Southern Appalachians

by Jennifer Frick-Ruppert
Mountain Nature: A Seasonal Natural History of the Southern Appalachians

Mountain Nature: A Seasonal Natural History of the Southern Appalachians

by Jennifer Frick-Ruppert


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The Southern Appalachians are home to a breathtakingly diverse array of living things--from delicate orchids to carnivorous pitcher plants, from migrating butterflies to flying squirrels, and from brawny black bears to more species of salamander than anywhere else in the world. Mountain Nature is a lively and engaging account of the ecology of this remarkable region. It explores the animals and plants of the Southern Appalachians and the webs of interdependence that connect them.

Within the region's roughly 35 million acres, extending from north Georgia through the Carolinas to northern Virginia, exists a mosaic of habitats, each fostering its own unique natural community. Stories of the animals and plants of the Southern Appalachians are intertwined with descriptions of the seasons, giving readers a glimpse into the interlinked rhythms of nature, from daily and yearly cycles to long-term geological changes. Residents and visitors to Great Smoky Mountains or Shenandoah National Parks, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or any of the national forests or other natural attractions within the region will welcome this appealing introduction to its ecological wonders.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807898260
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 04/15/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 256
File size: 7 MB

About the Author

Jennifer Frick-Ruppert is professor of ecology and environmental science at Brevard College in Brevard, North Carolina.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction: The Diverse Southern Appalachians 1

1 The Nature of Cycles 9

Daily Cycles and Biological Clocks 10

The Daily Cycle of Sleep in Animals 11

Daily Cycle of Sleep in Plants? 12

Communication at Night 12

Seasonal Cycles and Biological Calendars 15

Day Length as the Cue for Seasonal Calendars 17

Tree Rings: Evidence of Seasonal Cycles in Plants 19

Migration and Hibernation: Seasonal Cycles in Animals 20

Seasonal Cycles of Aquatic Animals 21

Appalachian Trout and Other Fish 23

Trout Food: Aquatic Insects 25

Longer-term, Multi-year Cycles 26

Tree Reproduction and Long-term Masting Cycles 27

Masting in Cicadas? 28

Population Peaks in Voles as Long-term Cycles 29

Geological Features as Extremely Long-term Cycles 31

The Nature of Cycles 33

2 Cycles of Spring: March, April, May 35

Pollination and Flower Form 35

Pollination in Serviceberry and Silverbell 36

Wind Pollination in Maples, Oaks, and Grasses 37

Insect Pollination in Tulip Trees, Magnolias, and Flame Azaleas 40

Of Peas and Pollinators: Locusts and Other Legumes 41

Ephemeral Wildflowers: Ramps and Trout Lilies 44

Other Wildflowers: More Lilies, Trilliums, and Jack-in-the-Pulpits 47

"Leaves in Three, Let It Be!" 48

Oconee Bells: A Charismatic Appalachian Wildflower 49

Bloodroot: A Native Poppy 51

Plants and Ants: Beneficial Relationships 51

The Orchids; Wildflowers that Trick Insects and Parasitize Fungi 54

Morels: A Springtime Delicacy 56

Squawroot and Other Parasitic Plants 57

Honeybee Swarms: Colony Reproduction 59

Insects and Migratory Birds 61

Warbler Diversify and Decline 62

Caterpillars and Cuckoos 63

Blue Birds and Bluebirds 65

Migrations: The Return Route of Hummingbirds 66

Spring Peepers 68

Climatic Conditions in Spring 69

3 Cycles of Summer: June, July, August 71

Flowers in Myriad Forms: Jewelweed and Dodder 71

Summer's Divine Robes: Cardinal Flower 74

Ginseng and Yellowroot: Uncommon and Common Medicinal Plants 75

Insectivorous Plants: Sundews and Pitchers 76

The Heaths: Mountain Laurel, Rhododendron, Sourwood, and Pinesap 78

Interdependence of Plants and Pollinators: Yucca 81

What Good Is a Mosquito? 82

Seeds and Fruits: Doll's Eyes and Hearts-a-Bustin' 83

Rain, Fungi, and Connections 84

Dangerous Social Insects and Their Mimics 87

"Unsocial" Wasps? 91

Poisonous Butterflies and Their Mimics 93

Moth Communication and Camouflage 96

Luna Moths: Endangered or Not? 98

Katydids and Crickets: Summer Songsters Use Sound to Communicate 99

Damsels and Dragons 101

Crab Spiders: Camouflage by the Predators 103

Flashing Fireflies of Summer Evenings 103

Railroad Worms and Millipedes: Predators and Prey 106

Grouse Threat Display: Prey or Predator? 108

Southern Appalachians: Greatest Salamander Diversity in the World 109

Lizards and Snakes: Close Cousins 111

Snake Sense 114

The Centenarian Turtles 117

Climatic Conditions in Summer 119

4 Cycles of Fall: September, October, November 121

Bioluminescent Mushrooms 122

Leaf Color Change 123

Fall Flowers: Gentians and Orchids 126

Witch Hazel's Bewitching Flowers 126

Dispersal of Offspring in Plants 128

Sweet Fleshy Fruits 130

Fatty Fruits? Spicebush and Dogwood 131

Other Fleshy Fruits: Sumac 133

Migrant and Resident Birds as Fruit Dispersers 134

Dry Fruits: Oaks, Hickories, and Chestnuts 135

Squirrels as Seed Dispersers 137

Bird Migration: Kinglets and Nightjars 138

Hawks: Migrants and Residents 140

Resident Screech and Barred Owls 143

Bats 144

Bars and Gargoyles 147

Migrating Monarchs and the Foods that Support Them 148

Ladybugs: Friends or Foes? 152

The Rise and Fall of Insect Populations: Woolly Beat Caterpillars 154

Woolly Alder Aphids 155

Spiders and Their Insect Prey 157

Climatic Conditions in Fall 161

5 Cycles of Winter: December, January, February 163

Freeze/Thaw Cycles and the Magic of Ice 163

Deciduous versus Evergreen Trees 164

Appalachian Conifers 167

The "Perfect Storm" of Acids, Adelgids, and Global Warming 168

American Holly: A Broad-Leaved Evergreen Tree 170

Rhododendrons as Evergreen Thermometers 171

Evergreen Herbaceous Plants: Cycles Reversed 172

Primitive Plants and Their Reproductive Cycles 173

Lichens and Jelly Fungi 176

Springtails: Enigmatic Winter Animals 178

Hibernation and Denning Cycles in Groundhogs and Bears 179

Activity Cycles of Small Mammals: Shrews, Moles, Mice, and Flying Squirrels 182

Common Nocturnal Omnivores: Raccoons, Skunks, and Opossums 185

Rarely Seen Large Carnivores: Foxes, Coyotes, Bobcats, Mountain Lions, and Otters 189

Eyeshine of Nocturnal Animals 192

Rabies Epidemics 192

Cycles of Bird Irruptions 193

Birdsong and the Cycles of Territoriality versus Foraging Flocks 195

Reproductive Cycles that Begin in Winter: Wood Frogs and Great Horned Owls 201

Climatic Conditions in Winter 204


Effects of Global Warming 22

Fishing in Trout Rivers 27

Ramps Harvests 45

Fire Ants and Global Warming 53

Please Do Not Dig Orchids 55

Photovoltaic Cells: Humanity's Photosynthesis? 58

Caterpillar Circular Logic 64

Hummingbirds and Feeders 67

Poison Ivy Potion 72

Threats to Pitcherplants 78

Wasps as Friends, Not Foes 89

Treatment for Squash Borers 90

Silk Shirts from Worms! 99

Cool Night Lights 105

Fewer Fireflies? 106

Color Perception in Humans 125

Hawk Migration Sites 142

Bat Conservation 147

Monarch Migration Locations 151

Human Effects on Monarchs 152

Woolly Worms and Weather Predictions 155

Invasive Species 170

Old Coal and Fossil Fuels 175

Lichens as Indicators of Air Quality 178

Groundhog Day 180

Help Black Bears and People 181

"Bird" Feeders? 185

Appendix: Federal Public Lands in the Southern Appalachians 205

References 207

Index 215

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

The Southern Appalachian mountains are teeming with life—the birds and giant trees are obvious enough, but in the soil, the streams and springs, and even the tops of those tall trees, insects, fungi, salamanders, and mosses abound. The mountains would be impressive even if they, like tropical rain forests, were the same from month to month, but here the forms of life present a seasonal pageant as well. Mountain Nature takes a new perspective on this wonderful diversity, following the seasonal path from spring wildflowers to summer green to fall harvest and winter quiet.—Peter S. White, North Carolina Botanical Garden

This book captured my attention immediately with the sleep patterns (or lack thereof) of animals and plants. I remained captivated by all the intricacies of nature and how interdependent we are with all species on this earth. As I look at my orchids, I know now why I have such difficulty growing them. Thanks for this wonderful insight into Mother Nature.—Katherine Skinner, North Carolina Nature Conservancy

Anyone interested in nature will relish this evocative and informative book.—Timothy P. Spira, Clemson University

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