Three Different Forest
From west to east
there are three different areas of vegetation
which correspond to three physiographic sections of the
state. A web site on point with photos is http://www.wvgs.wvnet.edu/...
Western. The Western
Hill Section includes the Allegheny Plateau from
the Ohio River to the mountains. The southern portion
is more rugged than the northern, a result of strata resistent
to erosion. Streams are dendritic and hills and tributaries
are laid out randomly, as any hiker can attest. Vegetation
is part of the Central Hardwood Forest (mixed hardwoods),
meaning, from dry to wet -- oak-pine, oak-chestnut, cove
hardwoods, mixed mesophytic forests, and flood plain communities.
Mountain and Upland Section encompasses the mountain
ranges oriented northeast-southwest and the deep valleys.
From the air, the further east one goes, they look
like humongous, stretched-out, end-to-end dinosaurs forming
parallel lines and separated by flat spaces. These
are the highest mountains in the state and typically are
covered with Northern Hardwoods and Northern Evergreens.
Here, at higher elevations,
are spruces (predominantly red spruce until clearcutting
destroyed them, e.g., Dolly Sods), balsam fir, red pine,
larch, and spruce replacements such as pin cherry, aspen,
mountain ash, and paper birch. Hardwoods exist from the
lower levels of evergreens to around 2,500 feet. The
principal hardwoods are sugar maple, yellow birch, and beech,
and many other species thrive in smaller numbers.
The highest areas are characterized
by subalpine tablelands such as are on
Allegheny Front Mountain, which includes Dolly Sods. They
are remote windswept plateaus containing spectacular
views. The highest of these is Roaring Plains
which is covered by flagged spruce, huckleberries, meadows,
and bogs, and contains state-rare plants and animals. The
land is protected by a conservation easement at the behest
of The Nature Conservancy, which through the years with
the help of the national forest, has protected 21,000 acres.
The mountians are home to two endangered species, the Virginia
flying squirrel and the Cheat Mountain salamander.
Here, with a change of
elevation of 3,000 feet from base to summit, is where the
drainages of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic slope meet.
The eastern slope and foothills receive much less rain than
does the western slope which receives some of the heaviest
annual precipitation in the state. To learn more about
and to see Dolly Sods: http://rhs.jack.k12.wv.us/...
Fascinating anomalies occasionally
dot the Allegheny Mountain section. Grass balds
are treeless spots on mountaintops reminiscent of subalpine
slopes in the Rocky Mountains. Heath barrens,
found near Seneca Creek along the Allegheny Front, are gently
rolling mountain-top areas thickly covered with heath shrubs
for several miles in width.
Perhaps the most widely
known anomaly is the glades which resemble
mossy Canadian bogs. The Cranberry Glades in
Pocahontas County attract many thousands of visitors every
year who stroll along a boardwalk in this beautiful, fragile,
and special place. Another Ice-Age bog is the Cranesville
Swamp Preserve straddling Preston County, West Virginia,
and the border of Maryland. It is protected by The
Eastern. The Eastern
Ridge and Valley Section beyond the tall mountains includes
most of the eastern panhandle. It is populated by
Central Hardwood forests: oaks, pines, hickories, and originally,
Other uncommon features
of the state include cliffs and rocky places, or
hard rock outcrops, not covered by vegetation. which
attract unusual and even rare plants. Hard shale barrens
in the South Branch valley and in Greenbrier and Monroe
Counties house woody plants and uncommon small flowers.
Last updated on Thursday, August 17, 2000