In the 18th century most of Tennessee was covered by great hardwood forests. Today forests cover 55 percent of the state’s land area. Private landowners control most of the forest land.
Many species of oaks and hickories are found throughout Tennessee. Among the other forest trees of Tennessee are the tulip poplar, or tulip tree, which is the state tree, and the red maple, American sycamore, American elm, shortleaf pine, table-mountain pine, pitch pine, and white pine. Flowering trees and shrubs include the flame azalea, mountain laurel, vaccinium, and species of dogwoods and rhododendrons. Common wild flowers include the creeping phlox, fumitory, Dutchman’s-breeches, and Oswego tea.
The upland forests of eastern Tennessee are dominated by red spruces and Fraser firs. Forests of northern hardwoods also occur in the mountains and include such trees as the yellow birch, sugar maple, white ash, beech, and black cherry. Among the wild flowers in the high mountain forests of Tennessee are the wood sorrel, trout-lily, spring beauty, and phacelia. There are more varieties of plant life in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park than in all of Europe. In the Nashville Basin there are open stands of red cedars together with post oaks, chinquapin oaks, shagbark hickories, winged elms, redbuds, and southern buckthorns.
In the red cedar woods the spring wild flowers include the sandwort, sedum, phlox, verbena, and evening primrose. The iris, which is the state flower, is cultivated extensively in central Tennessee.
The bald cypress is common in the low swampy bottomlands of western Tennessee, along with black willows, cottonwoods, silver maples, sweet gums, and river birches. Some oaks and hickories are found on higher ground.
The principal soils in Tennessee are the red and yellow podzols, which occupy most of the lowland areas of the Ridge and Valley province and the western and central areas of the state.
Light brown in color, these soils erode easily, require especially careful management, and are characteristically poor in organic matter and nutrients. The most productive podzols occur in the Nashville Basin, where the underlying rock, a phosphatic limestone, contributes unusually high amounts of phosphorus to the soil. Somewhat less productive are the podzols developed on the Highland Rim and the Gulf Coastal Plain.
Lithosols, or thin mountain soils, cover most of the Cumberland Plateau and the ridges and mountains of eastern Tennessee. Highly acidic, these soils support meager crops and pastures. Much of the land is forested.
Alluvial soils, which are productive when properly drained and cultivated, predominate in the Mississippi bottomlands and in other river valleys. Near the Mississippi River is a band of loess, a very fine-textured, wind-deposited, soil that is highly productive. "Tennessee" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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