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The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture

The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 8: Environment

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture
    Book Description:

    From semitropical coastal areas to high mountain terrain, from swampy lowlands to modern cities, the environment holds a fundamental importance in shaping the character of the American South. This volume ofThe New Encyclopedia of Southern Culturesurveys the dynamic environmental forces that have shaped human culture in the region--and the ways humans have shaped their environment. Articles examine how the South's ecology, physiography, and climate have influenced southerners--not only as a daily fact of life but also as a metaphor for understanding culture and identity.This volume includes ninety-eight essays that explore--both broadly and specifically--elements of the southern environment. Thematic overviews address subjects such as plants, animals, energy use and development, and natural disasters. Shorter topical entries feature familiar species such as the alligator, the ivory-billed woodpecker, kudzu, and the mockingbird. Also covered are important individuals in southern environmental history and prominent places in the landscape, such as the South's national parks and seashores. New articles cover contemporary issues in land use and conservation, environmental protection, and the current status of the flora and fauna widely associated with the South.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-1661-2
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    In 1989 years of planning and hard work came to fruition when the University of North Carolina Press joined the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi to publish theEncyclopedia of Southern Culture. While all those involved in writing, reviewing, editing, and producing the volume believed it would be received as a vital contribution to our understanding of the American South, no one could have anticipated fully the widespread acclaim it would receive from reviewers and other commentators. But theEncyclopediawas indeed celebrated, not only by scholars but also by popular audiences with...

    (pp. xvii-xx)

    The environment was an under-studied subject in 1989 when theEncyclopedia of Southern Culturemade it one of the defining categories for the study of the American South. Much new work has appeared since then, reflecting the growth in American environmental history in general and the now-recognized importance of the topic to understanding the region’s experience.

    The environment, to be sure, has long been seen as one of the factors that made the South different from other parts of the United States. Agricultural historians especially had an early appreciation of the role of climate, soil, and other factors that created...

    (pp. 1-20)

    InThe Colonial Search for a Southern Eden(1953), historian Louis B. Wright noted, “The notion that the earthly paradise, similar to if not the veritable site of the Scriptural Eden, might be found in some southern region of the New World was widely held in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.” Some explorers claimed that God had placed Eden on the 35th parallel of north latitude, along a line from New Bern, N.C., to Memphis, Tenn. In more recent times the idea of a southern Eden has faded, but the post–World War II New South helped restore a...

  6. Animals
    (pp. 21-29)

    The woods and waters of the American South provide a rich habitat for the fauna of its lands, and this varied animal life has nourished the needs of peoples who have lived there. With its large populations of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians, the South was a bountiful wilderness of mixed forests, pine barrens, swamps, grasslands, and fish-bearing streams in the era before settlement. Its extensive coastline provided access to the marine wealth of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The growing presence of humans in the South altered the biotic capabilities of the area to support...

  7. Aquatic Life, Freshwater
    (pp. 29-36)

    The South has diverse aquatic ecosystems that harbor an astonishing variety of aquatic, or semiaquatic, organisms, many of which occur nowhere else in the world. Aquatic ecosystems of the South include running water systems, such as small, clear, rocky streams and large, muddy, meandering rivers. Standing water systems include lakes, bogs, swamps, and seasonally flooded systems such as bottomland hardwood forests. There are about 20,000 caves with unusual species living in underground springs and streams.

    Glaciation was not responsible for formation of lakes in the South, as it was in the northern United States. Instead, natural lakes in the South...

  8. Birds and Birding
    (pp. 36-38)

    A wide variety of birds reside in or migrate through the South. While Native Americans were intimately familiar with the diversity of species that lived on or migrated through their land, the British naturalist Mark Catesby assembled the first authoritative catalog of southern avifauna. His two-volumeNatural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands(1731–43) included 109 hand-colored bird illustrations. Fifty years later, William Bartram incorporated a list of 215 southern birds into his widely acclaimed bookTravels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida(1791). In the first half of the 19th century, the...

  9. Climate and Weather
    (pp. 39-43)

    Scholars and other observers have long seen the region’s climate and weather as the key to understanding its people. James McBride Dabbs saw in the violence of southern thunderstorms a parallel for the violence of the region’s people, nurturing the tension that demanded release. He called the weather a “demigod.” Wilbur J. Cash portrayed the southern climate creating “a cosmic conspiracy against reality in favor of romance.” Clarence Cason, in90°in the Shade(1935), used the weather to explain the southerner’s slow talk and movement. Sociologist Rupert Vance blamed the prevalence of hookworm in the South partly on the...

  10. Coastal Marshes
    (pp. 43-45)

    Coastal marshes are much more prominent in the South than elsewhere in the United States. Indeed, if we ignore Alaska, Hawaii, and coastal marshes along inland lakes in the United States, 58 percent of the nation’s coastal marshes border the Gulf of Mexico, and another 26 percent can be found along the south Atlantic coastline from North Carolina to the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. Only 14 percent of such wetlands are found along the Atlantic Coast north of North Carolina (much of this is in Chesapeake Bay), and just under 2 percent of the U.S. total can be...

  11. Dams
    (pp. 45-47)

    In the context of southern history, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is usually perceived as the central and essential locus of dam construction and operation in the region. Authorized in May 1933 (at the beginning of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term as president) the federally sponsored TVA oversaw the construction of numerous dams in the Tennessee River Valley and attained worldwide fame as a regional agency devoted to multiple-purpose water resources development. Focused around the recently built Wilson Dam (originally authorized by Congress in 1916 to help power nitrate/explosives plants vital to national defense), the TVA soon undertook construction of...

  12. Endangered Species
    (pp. 47-54)

    Through millions of millennia, the actions of climate, rainfall, and other agents of geological change have sculpted in the American South a rich and diverse topography. From the unique coral islands that form the Florida Keys to the expansive delta of the Mississippi River with its wilderness of bayous to the great pine forests with their mixed stands of hardwoods, this area’s distinctive habitat has nourished a rich and diverse flora and fauna. White settlement in the region led to a gradual but sustained alteration of the natural setting in which southern wildlife maintained itself. The rapid pace of urbanization...

  13. Energy Use and Development
    (pp. 54-58)

    The energy sources of the South have contributed to the region’s and the nation’s economic development, but because of the prolific natural resources of the area, it has dominated the domestic energy market for much of U.S. history. Residents and industrialists exploited the region’s many rivers and stands of timber, but the vast sources of coal, oil, and natural gas in the South have left an indelible mark on its economy and culture.

    Industrialization in the United States through the 19th and early 20th centuries saw waterpower and wood as fuels for the industrial engine. Although individuals and businesses used...

  14. Environmental Justice
    (pp. 58-62)

    Environmental justice activists claim that poor, minority neighborhoods suffer disproportionate burdens of environmental pollution. The reality of environmental injustice has existed throughout American history. Elite white neighborhoods and residents have had access to modern conveniences, higher standards of sanitation, and city services denied to poor blacks both at home and at work. The earliest legal case involving this concept, however, erupted in 1979 through the activism of the African American women in a Houston neighborhood known as Northwood Manor. During the summer of 1977, Southwestern Waste Management Corporation purchased property in northwest Houston and applied for a landfill permit in...

  15. Environmental Movements
    (pp. 62-70)

    The South followed, although sometimes tardily, the rest of the nation in its evolution from natural resource conservation to the environmentalism of the 1960s. Cooperative efforts often developed between federal and state governments, but at times various state governments followed federal guidelines only reluctantly. While the South faced conservation problems similar to those throughout the country, its geography, history, and economic and social conditions gave southern conservation activities their own regional characteristics. Just as the environmental movements began to develop in the 1960s, the southern economy lagged. The southern legacy of individualism and resentment of outside authority also affected southern...

  16. Flood Control and Drainage
    (pp. 70-73)

    Although most sections of the United States have had to cope with floods, these problems have assumed extraordinary magnitude in two regions of the South: the lower Mississippi River Valley and the Florida peninsula.

    The Mississippi River both blesses and curses lower valley residents. Bearing its tremendous burden of water, the river has built up a delta of rich alluvial soil ideal for agriculture, but at times it has also overflowed its banks and taken a tragic toll in lives, homes, and property. Recognizing its threat, the founders of New Orleans ordered a protective embankment to be built. As early...

  17. Forests
    (pp. 74-78)

    The history of the South’s forests is one of decline, destruction, and recovery. Though human manipulation of the forests had begun centuries before European settlers arrived, the forest’s destruction since the mid-1800s has had a far greater impact on the land than the activity of the preceding 10,000 years. When the lumber industry moved into the region in the 1880s, the large-scale harvesting of trees radically altered entire ecosystems, bringing some to the edge of obliteration. By 1938 the combination of logging and timber removal for homes, crops, and pasture eliminated one-third of the South’s estimated original forested area of...

  18. Gardens and Gardening
    (pp. 78-83)

    The South has long been noted for beautiful antebellum homes with lovely gardens, spacious lawns, majestic large trees, and masses of flowering shrubs. With many attractive native and introduced plants to use in landscaping and one or more botanical or public display gardens in nearly every southern state offering workshops, the southern gardening tradition continues.

    A large proportion of the ornamental plants used throughout the southern states are broadleaf evergreens. These are far more predominant than the deciduous plants or the narrow-leaved evergreens such as junipers and dwarf hemlock pines. Once southern gardens consisted primarily of the magnolia (the handsome,...

  19. Indians and the Environment
    (pp. 83-85)

    The ecology of the South was well suited to Indian occupation, and large populations inhabited the river valleys of the interior as well as the coastal plains at white contact in the 16th century. These native people were highly successful at exploiting their ecosystem, drawing subsistence from a combination of hunting, farming, and gathering. When necessary, they purposely changed the environment, employing technologies that scholars only recently have begun to understand. Such economic diversity made Native American lives relatively secure. The southern Indians possessed an unusually sophisticated understanding of the environment, which provided virtually everything they needed for survival.


  20. Insects
    (pp. 85-89)
    T. J. HELMS

    Imagine southerners living in a world without the flicker of the firefly, the chirp of a cricket, the buzz of the honeybee, or the flutter of a swallowtail butterfly. They would probably prefer to live in a world without the bite of a mosquito, the itch of a chigger, the sting of the wasp, or the invasion of cockroaches. Southerners cannot escape the influence of insects. As a group, insects comprise the largest and most diverse form of animal life on earth, a fact southerners can easily believe on summer nights.

    Most people enjoy products like silk and honey that...

  21. Invasive and Alien Species (Floral and Faunal)
    (pp. 89-93)

    The American South, like every other region of the nation and the globe, is increasingly subjected to the problems and consequences created by biological invasions of alien flora, fauna, and pathogens into native biotas—plants, animals, and other living organisms of a specific region. The invasion of nonnative species into an existing biota frequently presents the invaders with a natural system in which they can flourish without the competition of the natural enemies they had known in their original environment. The immunity of time, distance, and the geographical barriers of oceans, deserts, and mountains, which in earlier eras slowed the...

  22. Land Use
    (pp. 93-96)

    The South has historically had a large arable area in relation to its small population, resulting in two centuries of widespread land exploitation. As historian Lewis C. Gray put it, “Planters bought land as they might buy a wagon—with the expectation of wearing it out”; the wave of farmers that swept from Virginia to Texas planting corn and cotton thus “passed like a devastating scourge.” Poor husbandry, stemming from lack of motivation rather than ignorance about fertilizers or crop rotation, brought about soil exhaustion and erosion before the Civil War. In 1850 the South was basically a mixed farming...

  23. Marine Environment, Fish and Fisheries
    (pp. 96-98)

    The shores of the southern United States are caressed by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. These bodies of water provide transportation, recreation, jobs, and food and have a profound effect on the culture of southern coastal communities. The Gulf of Mexico is the largest gulf in North America, covering approximately 400,000 square miles and having about 2,500 miles of coastline. The southern states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and north and west Florida reap rich rewards from this body of water. The U.S. southern Atlantic Coast is approximately 1,300 miles in length and...

  24. Natural Disasters
    (pp. 98-102)

    Natural disasters suddenly convey the vulnerability of human life and the fragility of civilization. They violently disrupt the fabric of society and create human misery as well as social dislocation. In the South most natural disasters are caused by weather-related phenomena: violent thunderstorms, tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes. The complex mechanics of warm, moisture-laden air from the Gulf of Mexico combining with the cool, drier air from the North spark violent thunderstorms that often engender short-lived tornadoes that tear unforgivingly across the landscape. Tropical weather patterns also spawn depressions that often evolve into hurricanes that threaten the Gulf and Atlantic coasts...

  25. Natural Resources
    (pp. 102-104)

    Because gold and silver are not produced to any degree in the 11 states of the old Confederacy, there is a tendency to consider the South a region short of natural resources. Nothing could be further from the truth. If natural resources are defined as forms of wealth or potential wealth supplied by nature, then the South always has been blessed. Even though some of these treasures have been abused, they remain the region’s greatest hope for a bright and prosperous future.

    The South’s most basic natural resources are high humidity and warm weather. With from 45 to 70 inches...

  26. Naturalists
    (pp. 104-110)

    Colonial Europeans were overwhelmed by the richness of the flora and fauna they found in the American wilderness. Until the middle of the 19th century and the development of specialization in science, those interested in examining the topography, geology, native peoples, and plant and animal life were amateurs—planters, ministers, teachers, mariners, and physicians—who had limited, if any, scientific training in a specific field of natural history. Most of them were self-taught. They generally focused their energies on the collection of data, the classification of that data into a systematic framework, and the development of a scientific nomenclature that...

  27. Parks and Recreation Areas
    (pp. 110-112)

    Preservationists did not arrive in the South until most of the parks and recreation areas were already designated. At the turn of the 20th century, when men like John Muir first decried the loss of natural places, the South still longed for more development. The National Park Service (NPS), established in 1916, immediately became responsible for 14 new parks, and only Hot Springs, Ark., was available for designation in the Southeast.

    The boomtowns created by Yellowstone National Park first attracted the attention of city boosters in Knoxville, Tenn., and Asheville, N.C., in the early 1920s. Although wealthy patrons from the...

  28. Plants
    (pp. 113-116)

    To early colonial explorers and settlers accustomed to the relatively low plant diversity of Europe, the plants of the New World were one of its greatest wonders. The immense botanical diversity of the South has played, and continues to play, an important role in both the commerce and the culture of the region. Indeed, no other part of the country has such a strong association of its culture with plants. Native magnolias, Spanish moss, and longleaf pine and introduced plants such as indigo, rice, cotton, tobacco, peanuts, collards, okra, and kudzu elicit historical, political, economic, and culinary associations all of...

  29. Plant Uses
    (pp. 116-119)

    In addition to making economic use of cultivated plants, southerners have long utilized wild plants in a variety of ways. The pattern was set long ago by southeastern Indians. Plants were an important part of their belief system. The Indians believed that humans, animals, and plants were interrelated and that a balance between these forms should exist to keep nature properly functioning. The boundary between the animal and plant realms was blurred by plants such as the Venus flytrap and the pitcher plant, which trapped and “ate” insects. This kind of anomaly was of particular interest to southerners and took...

  30. Pollution
    (pp. 119-123)

    When a national commission mapped the “pollution belt” in 1939, it omitted the southern states. Since the South was a rural region, many considered it pristine and bucolic, but it has its own distinct pollution history. Before the early 1970s, states held the primary pollution control authority, and during that time, southern state governments were slow to embrace policies to protect the environment. Southerners, however, consistently voiced objections to pollution that damaged natural resources. As a spate of federal environmental laws in the 1970s called for greater national consistency, southern states gradually came in line with the rest of the...

  31. Reclamation and Irrigation
    (pp. 123-128)

    Inseparable concepts in the arid American West, reclamation and irrigation differed significantly in the South. Farmers in Dixie received 40 to 60 inches of annual rainfall and understood reclamation to mean the drainage of swamps and marshes, not the watering of deserts. Efforts to transform wetlands into property suitable for agriculture or housing were common, but irrigation was not. Most southerners found their crops adequately watered by nature. Rice growers were the great exception and remained the region’s major irrigators for more than two centuries. Irrigation increased dramatically and reclamation virtually reversed course as agribusiness and environmentalism gradually gained prominence...

  32. Rivers and Lakes
    (pp. 128-133)

    From the Potomac to the Rio Grande, the South is blessed with rivers flowing, with few exceptions, to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Fed by an average annual rainfall of 40 to 50 inches, with even greater amounts in the Appalachians and along the Gulf Coast east of New Orleans, the rivers of the South have bountiful flows except in drier west Texas, and the warm southern climate keeps the streams free of ice during most of the year. Because the rains fall abundantly in the winter and spring, however, the rivers often flood during those seasons, and they sometimes...

  33. Roads and Trails
    (pp. 134-138)

    From preindustrial times to the automobile age, elaborate networks of roads and trails have crisscrossed the South and made commerce, political activity, and cultural exchange possible. The locations of these routes were determined in many cases not entirely by men and women who built them but by previous inhabitants who had already carved their own trails out of the landscape. These ancient trails served as a blueprint for later road-building efforts, and an unmistakable continuity exists between the trails established by early Native American residents of the South and the roads and highways built later by whites.

    Long before humans...

  34. Shellfish
    (pp. 138-141)

    The South has both recreational and industrial shellfish resources, all of which have been exploited as far back as the earliest aboriginal inhabitants. Shellfish may be categorized as mollusks or crustaceans found in either fresh or salt waters. Important mollusks include clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, and snails. Valuable crustaceans are crabs, freshwater crayfish, shrimps, and spiny lobsters.

    Aboriginal settlements are often located by the presence of shell mounds, or middens, adjacent to inland rivers. Native Americans ate copious quantities of mussels (familyUnionidae) and coveted those with pearls and lustrous mother-of-pearl inner shells for ornaments. European settlers ate few mussels...

  35. Soil and Soil Conservation
    (pp. 141-147)

    Soils are natural bodies, the result of unique interactions of soil-forming factors. Once soils were thought of as merely the residuum from rocks. Parent material is indeed an important factor in soil formation, or soil genesis, because it is the source of many elements needed for plant growth. As parent material is exposed at the earth’s surface, it is altered by processes that can be related to climate, topography, and living organisms and the amount of time the material remains near the land surface before being dissolved, eroded, or buried. Soil properties have always placed limitations on food production. With...

  36. Streams and Steamboats
    (pp. 147-150)

    Waterways help explain much of the demographic, economic, and social history of the South. The Potomac, Ohio, and Missouri rivers formed a rough boundary for the slave states and the Confederacy. Seven thousand miles of the Mississippi River system with its tributaries from the Ohio and Tennessee southward to the Big Black and the Red rivers flow through the central agricultural region of the South. Smaller river systems from the Trinity at Galveston Bay to the Alabama at Mobile Bay and the Suwannee in Florida drain the Gulf Coast states. On the Atlantic seaboard, 20 river systems from the York...

  37. Swamps
    (pp. 150-154)

    Swamps—technically, wooded wetlands—bear a complex relationship to southern culture. While not unique to the South, swamps are much more common in southern states than in the rest of the nation; the South features the highest concentration of wetlands in America. Also, southern wetlands differ in type from those elsewhere. While New England tends toward relatively tractable and arable coastal marshes, southern wetlands are more likely to be densely and picturesquely wooded, a difference that has given them a distinct place in the popular imagination. Swamps have always been powerfully linked with images not only of the southern landscape...

  38. Tennessee Valley Authority
    (pp. 154-159)

    The 50th anniversary of the signing of the TVA Act by President Franklin D. Roosevelt was 18 May 1983. In that half-century the Tennessee Valley Authority played a major role in transforming one of the most underdeveloped and poverty-stricken areas in the nation into one centrally involved with critical problems besetting the South, the nation, and the world in the waning years of the 20th century. Senator George Norris’s vision of “taking the Tennessee River as a whole and developing it systematically, as one great enterprise, to bring about the maximum control of navigation, of flood control, and of the...

  39. Trees
    (pp. 159-161)

    William Faulkner’s story “Delta Autumn” talks of Mississippi Delta land that is an “impenetrable jungle of water-standing cane and cypress, gum and holly and oak and ash.” Trees have been both a natural and a cultural resource for southerners. A great forest has covered much of the South since the region’s human history began. Pine forests paralleled the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, hardwoods were found in the uplands, mixed pine-hardwood growth occurred in the low-lying swamps and river valleys, and the mountains produced appropriate high-altitude hardwoods. The slopes of the Appalachian Mountains and the Ozarks have been especially rich with...

  40. Water Use
    (pp. 161-169)

    Stretching from the soggy Dismal Swamp of Virginia to the semiarid Llano Estacado of western Texas, the diverse southern geography and the associated climatic differences create the need for a variety of approaches to the utilization and management of southern water resources. Found in lakes, streams, and aquifers, these resources have both blessed and cursed the South. Watercourses provided the means by which early Europeans moved westward to settle the southern Coastal Plain and Piedmont. Traversing the Appalachian Mountains, other pioneers sought the fertile valleys of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers and the access they gave to farther movement westward....

  41. Wetlands
    (pp. 169-174)

    Wetlands were long regarded as sources of locally valuable materials, but modern treatment of wetlands as wastelands ignores the historically significant roles these waterlogged areas have always played in civilization. The rich accumulating sediments of lake, river, or ocean shores frequently capture and sometimes preserve remnants of the past. The pair of footprints from the Laetoli site in East Africa, for example, may verify the upright stance and bipedal walk of human ancestors more than 3.7 million years ago.

    Bogs and lake sediment retain pollen grains that paleontologists use to understand the floral composition of antiquity and to reconstruct the...

  42. Air-Conditioning
    (pp. 175-179)

    “Let us begin by discussing the weather, for that has been the chief agency in making the South distinctive.” This was the opening line of U.B. Phillips’s 1929 classicLife and Labor in the Old South. In Phillips’s day, environmental determinism was a powerful force in American social science; it was the age of Ellsworth Huntington and Walter Prescott Webb, when the link between climate and culture was thought to be a simple relationship of cause and effect, when the southern climate in particular was credited with producing everything from plantation slavery to the southern drawl. Such determinist views are...

  43. Alligators and Crocodiles
    (pp. 179-180)

    The American alligator (Alligator mississipiensis), one of only two remaining species of alligator, inhabits the rivers, swamps, and marshes of the southeastern United States as far west as Texas and along the Atlantic seaboard up through North Carolina. The name “alligator” is an Anglicization of the Spanishel legarto, “the lizard.” The American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), an extremely endangered species, is limited to the southern tip of Florida.

    Eighteenth-century accounts and drawings by explorers and naturalists in the American South elevated the alligator to a symbol representing America in European cartography and art. William Bartram’sTravels through North and South...

  44. Anderson, Walter Inglis (1903–1965) ARTIST.
    (pp. 180-181)

    Walter Anderson was born in New Orleans on 29 September 1903, the second son of George Walter Anderson, a grain merchant, and Annette Mc-Connell Anderson, an artist who taught him a love of art, music, and literature. He grew up valuing the importance of art in everyday life and developed what would become a lifelong interest in mythology. He attended grade school in New Orleans, went to boarding school in New York, and was later trained at the Parsons Institute of Design in New York (1922–23) and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1924–28). He received a scholarship...

  45. Appalachian Coal Region
    (pp. 181-184)

    The South is a region of vast mineral wealth, and the Appalachian coalfields have been a major energy source for the nation. Mining companies began exploiting the land and the people of Appalachia in the 19th century, leaving an indelible mark on the region. Coupled with that history are the faces of people and a scarred environment.

    The Appalachian mountain region in the southeastern United States is full of predominantly bituminous coalfields, some of the largest of which are in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Alabama. In the 19th century, as wood supplies dwindled in the East, people began to turn...

  46. Appalachian Mountains
    (pp. 184-185)

    This extended mountain system stretches from the St. Lawrence Valley in Canada to central Alabama. It includes a series of ranges, and those in the South include the Allegheny Mountains, the Blue Ridge, the Black Mountains, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the Cumberland Plateau. Composed of sedimentary rock, the beds of insoluble material in the southern mountains have resisted erosion, resulting in the South’s having the highest ranges of the series. Mount Mitchell (6,684 feet) in the Black Mountains is the highest peak in the Appalachians. The Blue Ridge Mountains run upward into Pennsylvania and represent the eastern escarpment of...

  47. Armadillo
    (pp. 185-186)

    The armadillo is an armored mammal about 30 inches long, including a tail of about 12 inches, usually weighing about 10 pounds. The body is enclosed by a three-sectioned shell. One section in the front protects the shoulders; another section in the rear protects the pelvic region. In the middle section between these two are a number of movable bands. The vulnerable underside is without armor, but it is protected by a tough skin covered with coarse hair.

    Collectively, armadillos are distributed throughout South America and north to Texas and into the Deep South. Because the early explorers had not...

  48. Assateague Island National Seashore
    (pp. 186-188)

    Assateague Island is a wild natural barrier island encompassing 19,000 acres surrounded by oceanic and estuarine waters. It is approximately 37 miles long and one-quarter to two and a half miles wide. Its name is thought to derive from a American Indian word meaning “the marshy place across.” Barrier islands are a natural phenomenon, a temporary formation created by the buildup of sand close to the continental coastline by storms, winds, and ocean tides. The waters of the earth’s oceans are fed by the polar ice caps, which have been of critical beaches and dune habitats. Erosion rates were calculated...

  49. Atchafalaya Basin Swamp
    (pp. 188-189)

    The Atchafalaya Basin Swamp is in south Louisiana. It is North America’s largest river basin swamp, containing about 2 million acres. It is traversed by the Atchafalaya River, a distributary of the Mississippi River. The Atchafalaya River carries away a considerable portion of the Mississippi River flow (about 30 percent) and brings large floods to the Atchafalaya Basin in late winter and early spring. On either side of the Atchafalaya River, several miles from the stream, are large man-made levees that confine these waters to a “floodway,” the largest in the world (about 820,000 acres). This floodway is designed to...

  50. Audubon, John James (1785–1851) NATURALIST AND ARTIST.
    (pp. 189-190)

    Although Audubon’s observations of wildlife extended from Labrador to the Florida Keys and from New Jersey to the Missouri River country, his works are particularly rich in material gathered in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida. During the years when these southern frontiers abounded in birds, he was able to compile an extraordinary record in paintings and journals.

    The illegitimate son of Captain Jean Audubon and Jeanne Rabine, a French servant, Audubon was born 26 April 1785 on his father’s plantation in Aux Cayes, Santo Domingo. Brought up in Nice, France, as the adopted son of Captain Audubon and his legal...

  51. Azaleas
    (pp. 190-191)

    Azalea is the name for a group of colorful deciduous shrubs now usually classified with their evergreen relatives in the genusRhododendron. Although native primarily to the acid soils and more temperate climates of the southeastern United States and southeastern Asia, many botanical species and horticultural varieties of azalea are widely grown in other areas of the world that have comparable soils and climates. Indeed, although azaleas were among the first North American shrubs to be sent back to England in the early days of colonial exploration, their general association with the South stems primarily from the extensive plantings of...

  52. Bartram, William (1739–1823) NATURALIST, EXPLORER, ARTIST, AUTHOR.
    (pp. 191-194)

    Bartram was the third son of the Quaker botanist and horticulturalist John Bartram and his second wife, Anne Mendenhall. He was born and raised at his father’s horticultural garden in Kingsessing, Pa., on the outskirts of Philadelphia. As a teenager, he attended the Academy of Philadelphia for four years and joined his father on a series of collecting trips. Although William clearly loved nature and the outdoors, his father worried that locating, preparing, sketching, and selling natural history specimens offered little hope of secure employment for his otherwise unfocused son.

    Following an apprenticeship with a Philadelphia merchant, in 1761 William...

  53. Big Bend National Park
    (pp. 194-196)

    According to Indian legend, when the Great Spirit had finished making the Earth, he dumped all of the leftover rocks in what is now Big Bend country. Some time later, yet still more than a hundred years ago, a Mexican cowboy described Big Bend country as a place “where the rainbows wait for the rain, and the big river is kept in a stone box, and water runs uphill and mountains float in the air, except at night when they go away to play with other mountains.”

    What is now Big Bend National Park sits on the U.S.-Mexican border along...

  54. Big Thicket
    (pp. 196-197)

    A biological and historical subregion of southeast Texas, the Big Thicket once covered approximately 3 million acres, from the Louisiana border across the lower Neches and Trinity river basins westward to the San Jacinto River and its tributaries. This dense wilderness is now reduced to approximately 300,000 acres in Hardin and surrounding counties.

    Biologically the Big Thicket is the southwesternmost extension of the Southern Evergreen Forest. Proximity to both the Gulf of Mexico and the dry Texas prairies accounts for the incursion of western and tropical species into its otherwise deep-southern ecology. Roadrunner and alligator, prickly pear cactus and water...

  55. Biscayne National Park
    (pp. 197-199)

    Located south of Miami, Fla., and approximately 20 miles east of Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park was established as a national monument in 1968. A rare underwater unit in the park system, it originated from the initiative of a grassroots campaign to protect Biscayne Bay.

    The beauty of the jade-colored bay, fringed by habitat-rich red and black mangrove trees, and the marine life that thrived in its coral-reef environment had always been the principal natural attraction at the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula. The first people known to have established a civilization in the area are the Tequesta...

  56. Blue Ridge Mountains
    (pp. 199-202)

    The Blue Ridge Mountains are the easternmost range in the southern Appalachians, extending from Pennsylvania to northeast Georgia. The oldest known rocks on earth are found in this range, on Roan Mountain, and are more than a billion years old. The characteristic rounded shapes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which appear as progressively lighter blue waves on the horizon, were formed by eons of weather and erosion. The earliest migrants to the Blue Ridge arrived around 8000 B.C. during the Paleo-Indian period, and evidence of their presence exists in Russell Cave, Ala. Their successors, referred to by anthropologists as the...

  57. Cancer Alley (Louisiana)
    (pp. 202-203)

    Cancer Alley lies along a 100-mile stretch of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The area has become a central case study for some of the most controversial and pointed issues in the modern environmental movement. The “Cancer Alley” moniker arose in the 1980s with the emergence of the environmental justice movement linking minorities and poverty to increased environmental hazards. Louisiana has a long-standing history of attempting to attract industry and business through tax incentives and plenty of available, cheap land. Cancer Alley, reflecting the monumental success of that policy, holds more than 300 industrial plants, as...

  58. Cape Lookout National Seashores
    (pp. 203-204)

    Cape Lookout National Seashore is a thin barrier island off the southeastern fringes of the Outer Banks of North Carolina’s Atlantic seaboard. This narrow shore is 56 miles in length and includes the North Core Banks, South Core Banks, and Shackleford Banks on the southern rim. It runs the length of the southeastern coast from Ocracoke Inlet to Beaufort Inlet. Cape Hatteras, the nation’s first national seashore, lies along North Carolina’s northeastern seaboard. Two currents of water, the northern Labrador and the Gulf Stream, converge along their coastlines. For centuries these lands and turbulent waters have attracted unusual friends and...

  59. Catfish
    (pp. 204-206)

    Southerners have never aligned themselves as closely with any cold-blooded creature as they have with the feline-looking catfish. Catfish are found elsewhere, to be sure. There are some 2,000 species throughout the world and more than two dozen in the United States alone. Southerners, though, have claimed the freshwater cat as their own. They have written the bewhiskered fish into their literature and sung songs and spun tales around it. And they have argued among themselves for years about which one tastes best and how it should be cooked.

    The three major kinds, all of the familyIctaluridae, are the...

  60. Chesapeake Bay
    (pp. 206-208)

    This is the largest estuary in North America, stretching 200 miles from southern Virginia to northern Maryland and ranging from 3 to 35 miles in width. The bay includes 4,300 square miles of water and covers 8,100 miles of shoreline. There are 170 miles of channel connecting the bay to the island seaport of Baltimore. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge spans the narrowest point of the bay. The area has historically nurtured a distinctive culture of the Upper South and today continues to provide an economic and environmental context for many southerners.

    The Chesapeake Bay was the site of the first...

  61. Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island
    (pp. 208-210)

    Cumberland Island is a barrier island approximately three miles off the coast of Georgia near the Florida border. It is approximately 18 miles long and from one-half to three miles wide. Separated from it by coastal marshes and Christmas Creek is Little Cumberland Island, a part of the same barrier formation as its larger neighbor. Both islands are within the boundary of Cumberland Island National Seashore, established in 1972 by Congress as a unit of the National Park System.

    The two islands are part of a vast system of barriers created by fluctuating sea levels and onshore movement of sedimentary...

  62. Cypress
    (pp. 210-211)

    Author Willie Morris, looking back on his childhood in the Mississippi Delta, recalled a vivid memory of the “cypresses, bent down like wise men trying to tell us something.” The bald cypress (Taxodium distichum R.) is a common image in the literary and visual works of southerners who are well acquainted with the tree that grows in the Coastal Plain of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, along inland swamps and rivers, and in pine-barren ponds. It is submerged during much of the year, often providing nearly total forest coverage of large wetland areas. Spanish moss is frequently seen draped over...

  63. Dogwood, Flowering
    (pp. 211-212)

    On his way to Mobile from Talasse (where the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers meet), the 18th-century naturalist William Bartram encountered what he described as a “remarkable grove of Dog wood trees (Cornus florida), which continued nine or ten miles unalterable.” According to Bartram, this stand of interconnecting trees “formed one vast, shady, cool grove, so dense and humid as to exclude the sun-beams, and prevent the intrusion of almost every other vegetable, affording us a most desirable shelter from the fervid sun-beams at noon-day.” Bartram’s fascinating description is all that remains of that early Alabama forest stand, but the mystique...

  64. Dry Tortugas
    (pp. 213-214)

    The Dry Tortugas are a cluster of seven very small islands (totaling 104 acres) that represent the westernmost extension of a string of islands or “keys” that range from the southern edge of the Gulf of Mexico to the island of Miami Beach, Fla. They are roughly 70 miles west of Key West. Originally named Las Tortugas by early 16th-century Spanish explorers who found multitudes of large sea turtles on the islands, the Tortugas earned the appellation “dry” in later years in an effort to warn people that the islands have no freshwater. Given the very shallow seawater and abundance...

  65. Florida Everglades
    (pp. 214-217)

    The Everglades, called Pa-hay-O-kee by its original inhabitants, form the largest Florida marsh and are like no other wetland on earth. Marjorie Stoneman Douglas said in 1947 that “the saw grass and water made the Everglades both simple and unique.” This 435-squaremile drainage area stretches for 60 miles south of the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee in south Florida. A 50-mile-wide marsh, covered up to 70 percent by saw grass (Cladium jamaicensis), slopes less than two inches per mile as it merges with saltwater swamp forests, defining the climate, geology, and availability of water for more than 6 million residents...

  66. Florida Keys
    (pp. 217-218)

    Florida’s subtropical Keys, a beautiful string of lush, low-lying islands and coral reefs straddling the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, begin at Key Largo just south of Miami and end in the Dry Tortugas. They are famous today for the Conch Republic, Cayo Hueso, “Margaritaville,” “parrotheads,” bone fishing, fabulous diving areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, key lime pie, and the diminutive key deer. But there is much more to them and their long, rich history.

    The Keys were originally inhabited by a people called the Calusas. Ponce de Leon made the European discovery of the Keys...

  67. Florida Panther
    (pp. 218-220)

    Reflecting one of countless historical ironies in the American relationship with nature, the Florida panther, a member of the cougar family, acquired its subspecies name from a 19th-century gentleman naturalist who preferred hunting for sport as much as for science. Indeed, Charles Barney Cory liked to have his photograph taken with his trophies, and nothing was more prized from the Florida wild thanPuma concolor coryi, which is slightly lighter in weight and darker in color and with longer legs and smaller feet than its seven North American subspecies counterparts. In Cory’s time, the hunter’s assault against the panther was...

  68. Galveston Bay
    (pp. 220-221)

    Galveston Bay is located on the southeast coast of Texas and is surrounded by five counties: Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, Harris, and Liberty. By geological reckoning, the bay is a recent feature of the earth. It is a 600-square-mile estuary that formed in a drowned river delta. The bay complex is composed of four major subbays: Galveston, Trinity, East, and West bays. Each subbay has a different depth and salinity. Galveston Bay has a maximum undredged depth of 12 feet. Trinity Bay reaches 8 feet, and East Bay’s depth ranges from 4 to 8 feet, with West Bay at 4 to...

  69. Great Smoky Mountains
    (pp. 221-223)

    A distinct family of mountains in the southern Appalachians, the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee may be the most biologically diverse place in North America. Heavy rainfall (80 inches per year on the peaks) here produces an omnipresent mist that makes them appear to give off steam—hence the nickname, “the Smokies.” The geology of the Smokies also contributes to their biodiversity, as the high peaks escaped the glaciers of the Ice Age; instead, they remained frozen in permafrost and tundra. When the earth warmed, the tops of the Smokies supported a spruce-fir forest, like an island...

  70. Guadalupe Mountains National Park
    (pp. 223-225)

    The Guadalupe Mountains National Park, surrounded by the Chihuahuan Desert, is the westernmost of all of the South’s national parks, located roughly 90 miles east of El Paso, Tex., and along the New Mexico border. The Guadalupe Mountains extend from Texas into southeast New Mexico and contain the highest summit in Texas, Guadalupe Peak (8,749 ft.) and the “signature peak” of west Texas, El Capitan (8,085 ft.). Open year-round, the park’s remote 86,000 acres are chiefly accessible by hiking or horseback. More than 80 miles of hiking trails are available for the casual nature walker and the experienced outbacker alike....

  71. Homer, Winslow (1836–1910) PAINTER.
    (pp. 226-227)

    Among the 19th century’s most prominent artists, Winslow Homer has been praised for his engravings, genre paintings, and marine oils. Although the details of Winslow Homer’s reclusive life and career are well known, his deep attachment to the South, its people, and its scenes is less frequently acknowledged. He was the quintessential New England Yankee, but his development as an artist was complemented by the incorporation of southern and tropical themes in his work. His bright, expressive, and energetic watercolors in particular reveal the impact of his southern experiences and differ substantively in color and mood from his famous marine...

  72. Hot Springs National Park
    (pp. 227-229)

    Forty-seven hot springs flowing from the slope of Hot Springs Mountain in the foothills of Arkansas’s Ouachita Mountains gained much attention in the early 19th century as immersion in their waters became known as a treatment for rheumatism and other ailments. Today, these naturally occurring springs serve as the centerpiece of Hot Springs National Park, one of the state’s most popular tourist destinations.

    Archaeological and other historical evidence suggests that Native Americans bathed in Hot Springs Creek prior to the arrival of Europeans. Before the Louisiana Purchase, the area surrounding the springs remained a virtually uninhabited wilderness; after that time,...

  73. Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
    (pp. 229-230)

    The magnificent ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) is the largest woodpecker north of Mexico and the third largest in the world. It possesses a beautiful jet-black body with large white patches on its wings, an impressive wingspan varying from 30 to 33 inches, and a prominent white beak that measures nearly three inches long. The male sports a bright red crest, while the female’s crest is black. The imposing size and brilliant coloration of the ivorybill led some locals to dub it the “Lord God Bird.” Others called it the “kent,” a reference to its distinctive toy-horn-like call. Casual observers have...

  74. Kudzu
    (pp. 230-232)

    Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) is a weedy vine with often rampant invasive growth (a foot or more in a single day) that, if not controlled, soon covers anything in its path—shrubs, trees, automobiles, or even small buildings. A native of Asia, kudzu has been a useful plant to Orientals for 2,000 years. The Chinese made a medicinal tea from its roots and used it to treat dysentery and fever, and fibers from the vine were used to make cloth and paper. The Japanese as far back as the 1700s used starches from the plant’s roots to make cakes. Kudzu powder...

  75. Lightwood
    (pp. 232-233)

    Pronounced “light’ood”—thew, particularly in the Deep South, having lost sound altogether—lightwood is the resin-saturated, naturally dried trunks, limbs, and knots of pine trees. It is important as a building and kindling material in areas of the South heavily forested with conifers. Not subject to replication by any known process, lightwood occurs only in nature. More often than not it begins with still-standing trunks of large trees killed by lightning strikes in the late spring, after sap has risen. Typically, an ensuing hot summer dries the moisture from the tree, leaving the resins free to permeate the wood...

  76. Live Oak
    (pp. 233-235)

    Few trees are as closely linked to southern culture as the live oak (Quercus virginiana). This magnificent tree grows naturally along a narrow strip starting along the Atlantic coastal region of southeast Virginia southward to Florida before wrapping along the Gulf Coast to central Texas. It grows in the driest sands of the Coastal Plain as a dwarf tree or in the rich fertile soils of hardwood hammocks as a dominant tree laden with Spanish moss.

    Called live oak because of its evergreen foliage, it is as tenacious as it is stately. Highly resistant to salt spray, soil salinity, and...

  77. Magnolia
    (pp. 235-236)

    In an otherwise grim portrait of life in the segregated South of the early 20th century, Mississippian Richard Wright inBlack Boy(1945) remembered from his youth “the drenching hospitality in the pervading smell of sweet magnolias.” “Could I write a book about the South without mentioning THE MAGNOLIA in some detail?” asks writer Ann Lewis. More than any other plant, the magnolia, a large tree with lustrous, dark green leaves and spectacular, white, fragrant flowers, is associated with the South.

    The southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), sometimes also known as “bull bay,” is native to the southern Coastal Plain from...

  78. Mammoth Cave National Park
    (pp. 236-239)

    Located in south-central Kentucky, Mammoth Cave National Park is the longest recorded cave system in the world, officially identified as the Mammoth Cave System. The national park was established in 1941; it now encompasses 52,830 acres aboveground and 360 miles of mapped tunnels and passageways below, with newly found tunnels adding to that number yearly. Time and water carved the caves and tunnels out of Mississippian-aged limestone strata 379 feet deep. A layer of sandstone crowns the system and provides an extremely stable support structure above.

    The history of the Mammoth Cave region extends across several millennia—perhaps as far...

  79. Mississippi River
    (pp. 239-241)

    The largest river in North America, the Mississippi River was named by Indians the “Father of Waters” and created the central South both literally and figuratively. The lower Mississippi over geologic eons built a fertile valley and delta to which it adds even now from a drainage area of 1.245 million square miles including all or parts of 31 states and 2 Canadian provinces. The river system severed soil from the slopes of the Appalachians and Rockies, and from prairies and plains, and carried it downstream eventually to become the croplands, forests, and swamps of an alluvial valley with a...

  80. Mockingbird
    (pp. 241-242)

    Atticus Finch inTo Kill a Mockingbird(1960) told his children “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” because, as Miss Maudie explained to them, mockingbirds “don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.” The mockingbird has been, indeed, particularly tied to the imagery of the South. It is as close to being an official southern bird as any; five southern states (Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Texas) have adopted it as their state bird. The legislative resolution in Florida naming the mockingbird as the avian emblem of the state referred to it as a “bird of...

  81. Muhammad, Benjamin Franklin Chavis (b. 1948) ACTIVIST.
    (pp. 242-243)

    Never shunning criticism or controversy, Benjamin Muhammad has combined his deep-seated religious beliefs with his strong commitment to civil rights justice over the course of his lifetime. Born Benjamin Franklin Chavis Jr. in Oxford, N.C., in 1948, Chavis participated in the civil rights movement in the late 1960s as a young man. He served as a youth coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, working with Martin Luther King Jr. The United Church of Christ (UCC) sent active member Chavis to Wilmington, N.C., in 1971 to organize protests by high school students against racism in that city. Protests turned violent...

    (pp. 243-245)

    Shortly after the end of the Civil War, the Scottish-born John Muir, traveling mostly on foot, made his way from Indianapolis, Ind., to Cedar Key, Fla. The 29-year-old began his journey on 1 September 1867, averaged 25 miles per day, and reached Florida on 15 October. In his record of this trip,A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf, first published in 1916, we see both Muir’s exaltation of the natural world and his frustration with humankind’s misuse of that world.

    Carrying little more than a plant press, a change of underwear, and three books—theNew Testament, the poetry of...

  83. Natchez Trace
    (pp. 245-246)

    The Natchez Trace originated as Native Americans beat a path through swamps, dense wilderness, and hills, from the Natchez bluffs into the hunting grounds of the Cumberland River Valley. Tribes that settled along the trace used it as a link in a network of commerce. Europeans later used the well-worn path. Hernando de Soto traveled it on his way to the Mississippi River, while French explorers established trading posts at its extremities, Natchez and Nashville. During the American Revolution the road was a path of freedom as colonists fled southwest.

    Though long and hazardous, the road acted as a sort...

  84. Nuclear Pollution
    (pp. 246-248)

    Since the early 1940s, the South has been deeply involved in the development and use of nuclear energy for military and civilian purposes. During World War II, scientists and engineers at the Manhattan Project’s immense installation at Oak Ridge, Tenn., conducted investigations and produced materials that were instrumental in making the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in August 1945. After the war, Oak Ridge continued as a key site for nuclear production, research, training, and distribution of radioactive isotopes. In the early Cold War period, the government built another huge facility, the Savannah River plant near Aiken, S.C., to meet...

  85. Odum, Eugene P. (1913–2002) ECOLOGIST.
    (pp. 248-249)

    Eugene “Gene” Pleasants Odum (born in New Hampshire in 1913, died in Georgia in 2002) was the eldest child of Anna and Howard Washington Odum. He was called the “father of modern ecology” largely because of his textFundamentals of Ecology, published in 1953. This text focused on ecosystems and was the first book of its kind; it was influential in establishing the bases of ecology as a unique discipline. Odum was the visionary who founded the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, the Marine Institute on Sapelo Island, and the Institute of Ecology. Today, these institutions have international...

  86. Offshore Oil Industry
    (pp. 249-251)

    In the 60 years since the end of World War II, the offshore oil and gas industry has been one of the most dynamic engines of investment, employment, and growth for the Gulf Coast region. From negligible production in 1945, offshore now produces about 34 percent of the world’s crude oil and about 25 percent of the world’s natural gas. Of all offshore provinces in the world, the northern Gulf of Mexico is the most explored, drilled, and developed. In 2005, in the continental shelf waters off Louisiana and Texas, there were nearly 4,000 active platforms servicing 35,000 wells, and...

  87. Oil Pollution
    (pp. 251-255)

    Oil production in the South has been an integral part of the economic well-being of the region, but the fiscal rewards have often come at the expense of the environment. Early petroleum producers sacrificed the environment by letting crude, brine, and other oil-related wastes flow uncontrolled into the surroundings in the quest to get as much oil out of the ground as fast as possible. Before the advent of effective regulation regarding pollution, the only thing that kept producers from completely abusing the land was the potential of a lawsuit. However, sophistication in the industry grew so much that some...

  88. Okefenokee Swamp
    (pp. 255-256)

    The Okefenokee Swamp, located mostly in extreme southeastern Georgia with a small part in northeastern Florida, is comprised of 438,000 acres. It is not really a swamp in the classic sense of a stagnant mire because it gives rise to the St. Marys River, which flows to the Atlantic Ocean, and the Suwannee River, which meanders to the Gulf of Mexico. In scientific terms, it is more like a swamp-marsh complex.

    “Okefenokee” is said to mean “land of the trembling earth.” The swamp was once part of an ancient ocean floor, and thick deposits of peat 15 feet deep throughout...

  89. Opossum (“Possum”)
    (pp. 256-259)

    More than 70 species can be found in the opossum family, which ranges from South America northward to Canada, but the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) once resided only in the Southeast and is still identified closely with the region’s culture. It is the only marsupial (a mammal that carries its new-born young in an abdominal pouch for weeks) found north of Mexico and the largest of the opossum family. It weighs from 4 to 15 pounds and is from 25 to 40 inches long. Captain John Smith, leader of the early Virginia settlement, described the female opossum in 1608: “An...

  90. Outer Banks
    (pp. 259-260)

    The Outer Banks are low, extremely narrow islands running from near Norfolk, Va., south for 175 miles to Cape Hatteras, N.C., and ending near Cape Lookout. They are separated from the mainland by the shallow Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. In 1524 Giovanni da Verrazano landed on the Outer Banks and thought he was off the coast of China. The real history of the islands began, though, in 1584 when Sir Walter Raleigh chose Roanoke Island, which was between the Outer Banks and the North Carolina coast, as the site for the first attempted English colony in North America. A fort...

  91. Ozarks
    (pp. 260-262)

    The Ozarks are a mid-American upland region noted for its physical beauty and often associated with stereotypical images of hillbillies and poverty-induced backwardness, on one hand, and rugged, frontierlike individualism, on the other.

    Spanning an area of about 40,000 square miles (roughly the size of Ohio), the Ozarks cover most of the southern half of Missouri and northwestern and north-central Arkansas, as well as much smaller portions of northeastern Oklahoma and southeastern Kansas. Geographers divide the region into four major subdivisions—the Boston Mountains, the St. Francois Mountains, the Spring-field Plain, and the Salem Plateau—along with a number of...

  92. Padre Island National Seashore
    (pp. 262-264)

    Padre Island is a natural barrier island, 113 miles in length, located off the Gulf Coast of Texas between Port Aransas at Corpus Christi and Port Isabel outside Brownsville. It is the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world. Five islands lie outside the Laguna Madre, a shallow, saline body of water buffering the coast. North to south, these include Galveston Island, Matagorda Peninsula, Matagorda Island, St. Joseph Island, Mustang Island, and Padre Island. The Laguna Madre is the only saltwater rookery in the continental United States and is the breeding ground for the white pelican.

    The island dunes, often...

  93. Palm Trees
    (pp. 264-265)

    “Florida is the land of Palms,” wrote horticulturist Henry Nehrling. “Avenues of Palms in our cities! Forests of Palms beside our streams and lakes! Thickets of Palms in our woods! Groves of Coconut Palms on the East Coast! Majestic Royal Palms in the south Everglades!” His enthusiasm was unbounded but appropriate because the palm has been one of the preeminent cultural-environmental symbols of the semi-tropical South, from the promotional advertising of Henry Flagler luring tourists south to the contemporary lyrics of Jimmy Buffet songs and the visual images of television’sMiami Vice.

    The main physical feature of the palm is...

  94. Persimmon
    (pp. 265-266)

    Common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is one of the most unique trees found in the southern forest. Compared with its peers, it exerts no real dominion such as great size, rapid growth rate, or even form. Instead, the common persimmon finds its niche in southern culture and history through exaggerated features that made it indispensable to those who happened to live within its natural range.

    This member of the ebony family is also called simmon or possumwood and commonly grows in both hardwood and pine forests throughout the South, usually under the canopy of taller trees on moist, well-drained, sandy soils....

  95. Red River Expedition
    (pp. 266-267)

    When the Louisiana Territory was acquired by the United States in 1803, no true scientific surveys had been done in the West, and many geographical details were unclear. Thus President Thomas Jefferson conceived of and put into the field two major exploring expeditions to examine the territory. That of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark into the northern territory was the most successful and is the best known. The second, intended to survey similarly the geography and natural history of the southern regions of the territory, only partially accomplished that task, because of Spanish opposition. On the expedition, however, was a...

  96. Rio Grande
    (pp. 267-269)

    The Rio Grande runs the course of the Mexican-American border from the state of Colorado down through New Mexico and across Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. It is part of an epic as varied as the people who settled its legendary lands and waters. Flowing through every type of ecosystem in North America, the mighty river shares a place in the history of the desert Southwest with two others, the Western Colorado and the Tijuana. These rivers are bound by a complicated legal and political framework established on the settlement agreements of Spain, Mexico, the southwestern border states, and...

  97. Sassafras
    (pp. 269-270)

    In the South, anyone who learns the woods learns the sassafras (Sassafras albidum) tree. It is easily identified by distinctive leaf shapes, fall foliage that is a flaming scarlet, orange, and yellow, and aromatic oils that when crushed smell like root beer right out of the bottle. Southerners also learn of the sassafras’s aggressive tendency to invade disturbed areas or abandoned fields. Many southern farmers have stood in either total amazement or utter despair to see last year’s effort to clean out a fencerow now covered with a fresh growth of sassafras sprouts.

    Native Americans in what is now Florida...

  98. Shenandoah Valley
    (pp. 270-272)

    Located in northern Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley is approximately 6,500 square miles in area, 180 miles long, and 10 to 24 miles wide. It is drained by the Shenandoah River, which has played an important role in the valley’s development as a rich agricultural area.

    The Shenandoah Valley was settled in the early 1700s by Germans, Dutch, Scotch-Irish, and English. The valley was an important route for the west-ward pioneer movement in the early 19th century. Its population at the time of the Civil War was predominantly white and rural.

    The valley was the site of an extraordinary Civil War...

  99. Spanish Moss
    (pp. 272-273)

    Spanish moss is a soft, silver-gray, tropical herb (Tillandsia usneoides) with slender leaves and stems that grow on the branches of trees, often oak or other hardwoods, in the low woodlands and swamp forests of the southern Coastal Plain from Virginia to Texas. It is an epiphyte, using tree limbs for mechanical support but drawing its nutrients from the air. Epiphytes never injure the host plant as do parasites. The long pendant strands may reach a length of 10 to 20 feet and sway with the slightest movement of the humid coastal air.

    It is not a true moss but...

  100. Tellico Dam
    (pp. 273-274)

    Constructed between 1967 and 1979 on the Little Tennessee River in Loudon County, Tenn., Tellico Dam was advertised as a creator of jobs for a disadvantaged area in the state. It became instead the focus of a battle between environmentalists, dam opponents, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and later represented a shift in public attitudes toward dam construction and was evidence to some that by the 1970s perhaps the TVA had outlived its usefulness.

    Construction of the dam began in 1967 and, after several interruptions, was completed in 1979. In response to local opposition to the dam, the TVA...

  101. Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway
    (pp. 274-275)

    The idea for a waterway connecting the Tennessee River and Tombigbee River is quite old. The first mention of such a connector dates to the late 1700s as the French explorer Montcalm searched for a way to speed the transport of goods to the Gulf Coast. Similar calls came throughout the 1800s as residents of eastern Tennessee and Alabama called for a way to shorten the distance between their areas and the ports of Mobile and New Orleans.

    The government studied the feasibility of such a project in the 1870s and early 1900s, and both studies concluded that to cut...

  102. Warren County, N.C.
    (pp. 275-276)

    Environmental activists credit protests in Warren County, N.C., with beginning the national environmental justice movement. The protest has also been seen as a continuation of earlier African American struggles, particularly the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. One scholar has called Warren County “the largest civil rights demonstration since the 1960s.”

    In 1979 two men involved in hazardous waste disposal dumped 30,000 gallons of PCB fluids illegally in North Carolina, partially in response to tightened Environmental Protection Agency regulations of the substance. Although PCB is among the most toxic substances known, the EPA waited four years to begin...

  103. Wilson Dam
    (pp. 276-278)

    Wilson Dam is a 4,800-foot-long, 137-foot-high concrete gravity dam stretching across the Tennessee River at Muscles Shoals in northern Alabama. Designed and built by engineer Hugh Cooper under the authority of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, work on Wilson Dam started in 1918 and was completed by 1925.

    Authorized by the 1916 National Defense Act, Wilson Dam (originally called Muscle Shoals Dam and later renamed in honor of President Woodrow Wilson) was intended to ensure a reliable supply of nitrates for the U.S. explosives industry. Electric power is an essential component of the Haber process for “fixing” nitrogen from...

    (pp. 279-280)
  105. INDEX
    (pp. 281-293)