Stretching nearly 2,200 miles from Alabama in the United States to New Brunswick, Canada, the Appalachian Mountain range is one of the richest temperate areas in the world. Home to over 200 species of birds and well over 6,000 species of plant life, the Appalachian Mountains offer visitors amazing diversity.
Moose inhabit the northernmost reaches of the Appalachians. Weighing in at 1,000 pounds or more, these large animals roam deep woods and wetland areas from Massachusetts into Canada. White-tailed deer are plentiful the entire length of these mountains and can be spotted often.
Black bear are also plentiful but they are shy and tough to find. The same is true for bobcats and coyotes, although beaver are also in abundance and are reported periodically by visitors.
Elk have been reintroduced to the region over the years in parts of North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. If not observed, their distinctive bugling can sometimes be heard. Wild boars are also a species contained in a smaller region, populating parts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
An abundance of smaller animals like squirrels, chipmunks, raccoon and opossum live all along the Appalachians. More rare species include fox, porcupine, mink and muskrat. Along with a variety of salamanders and lizards, snakes–both poisonous and non-poisonous–inhabit the woods and rocky areas of the mountains.
Many streams and some ponds are fed by springs and their cold water supports trout. Bass, catfish and bream are also plentiful in these waters.
With 255 different species identified, it would be difficult to list all the birds in the Appalachians. Some of the more unique species include whippoorwills and fly-catchers while songbirds are abundant everywhere in these mountains. Large game birds like turkey and grouse are very common and falcons, eagles and hawks roam the skies in search of prey.
According to a 1999 study by Kartesz and Meacham, 6,374 plant species are documented in the Appalachians. Scientists believe the actual number is five or six times that number. The mountains are well known for azaleas and rhododendrons. Laurel, jack-in-the-pulpit, columbine, trillium and bog laurel cover some hillsides and wild sarsaparilla grows in dry, open woods. Wood nettle can be found growing thick in some fields.
Most of these species are spring and summer bloomers but goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, wood sorrel and aster can be found in the fall and, occasionally, into early winter.
Forests are described as mixed deciduous with oaks and hickories the most common species of tree found in the Appalachians. A smattering of maples and beech are also in the mix. To the north, spruces and firs are plentiful. The southern end of the mountains is more species diverse than any other forest in North America with basswood, tulip trees, ash and magnolia among the variety.
About the Author
Sydnee Crain is former editor of "Parent and Family" magazine, and of the e-zine Freshare.net. Crain wrote and edited pieces for both publications and attended Missouri State University with a concentration in creative writing.