Oak-pine is somewhat of a climax forest out here, so here's how it gets that way: a forest stand is destroyed or "highly disturbed" by one of our four major natural forces here:
- saltwater flooding during a hurricane - kills most plant life
- wind throw - opens canopy for more aggressive pioneer species
- ice fall - same as above
- forest fire (lightning induced) - total destruction and soil fertilization!
The first (native) trees to come back on the coastal plain are Loblolly pine. Due to their tolerance for disturbance, they often are the only trees to immediately recolonize an area. This colonization historically resulted in a now rare habitat on the east coast: pine savannah.However, since flooding and fire are mitigated to some extent in our current society (think dams and Smoky the Bear), this habitat is being replaced with less disturbance-tolerant plant communities, such as Oak-Pine forest. As the canopy closes in, some really neat understory plants and wildlife recolonize the site. These forests are productive in extremely poor soils (flooded to xeric), and the plants tend to exacerbate soil conditions by shedding very acidic leaves. In vernal pools, you can see the tannic acid:
Here are some shots from today's hunting spot (an oak-pine forest managed for occasional pulp production):
Swamp Azalea. This one has been mangled by the large deer herd in this forest stand.
Sweet Pepperbush. One of my favorites.
American Holly. What a great songbird plant.
Red-backed Salamander - rare leadback phase!!! Would have been an amazing score, had my camera been interested in focusing....time for a new camera.
Other species I was really looking for but couldn't immediately locate are Northern Spicebush, Sassafras, Black Oak, Club Moss, and Poison Ivy. And one more...what was it? OH YEAH, the Eastern Wild Turkey! Maybe next spring.