Trees in the Great Smoky Mountains.
It has been be said that there are more species of trees within the boundaries of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park than there all if the whole of Europe. The combination of latitude, altitude and the large amount of annual rainfall have produced a forest canopy that is unrivaled in North America.
Approximately a third of the Park remains as old growth forest, untouched by any significant logging operations. In these botanical reservations one can experience these mountains as did the indigenous nations of antiquity.
And even though the majority of the acres that now comprise the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were extensively logged in the early 20th century, some areas have been recovering for over a hundred years and the second growth forest has developed a beauty and personality all its own.
My own experiences show the Park in 2015 to be a much more mature forest then when I first had the pleasure of discovering this treasure in 1973. The trees have been growing 42 years in that time.
There have been and still are casualties along the way. The American Chestnut which once dominated these mountains succumbed to a blight. You can still find the remains of fallen chestnuts throughout the park as a testament to the durability of this wood.
The Balsam woolly adelgid has taken a toll on the majority of the Balsam Firs and Fraser Firs, leaving their erect skeletons punctuating the ridge lines of the high elevations.
And now the Hemlock woolly adelgid is attacking the most magnificent trees in the mountains, the Eastern Hemlock. Losing all of these trees would be a catastrophe as they define the very nature of the Appalachian Forest.
But a visit to the Sugarlands in late October will still provide thrills as the sugar maples are set ablaze in reds and yellows and oranges. And the Great Smoky Mountains were spared from dogwood anthracnose and the tress still bloom in profusion in April and May. And my favorites, the tulip poplars still grow straight and tall throughout the park.
If you love trees the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Shangri la. I hope to spend another forty years enjoying them!