Most of Virginia is covered with well-developed soils that are generally productive when properly managed. Fertile gray-brown soils are found in the cooler northern areas of the Piedmont, in the Coastal Plain, and in the valleys of the west, especially the Great Appalachian Valley. Red-yellow soils, which are generally easy to cultivate, predominate in the southern Piedmont and higher sections of the southern Coastal Plain. However, intensive cultivation of tobacco, and in some areas cotton, has led to erosion of topsoil and thus rendered large areas unproductive without heavy fertilization. This is particularly true of the Tidewater (Coastal Plain) soils where most tobacco was grown and which have now experienced 350 years of cultivation.
Virginia’s mountain areas have only thin soils that are unsuited for cultivation. Bog soils in the lower areas of the southern Coastal Plain are remarkably rich in organic matter and were extremely productive agriculturally when drained. Modern wetland preservation legislation protects the Great Dismal Swamp and regulates against the destruction of other wetlands.
Forests cover more than half of Virginia. Although almost entirely second-growth, or forests that have developed after extensive logging cleared the original forest, most of the state’s forests have commercial value. Deciduous hardwood forests, dominated by white and red oaks, tulip-poplars, maples, and hickories, cover nearly two-thirds of the forest area.
Other common hardwoods include gum, ash, walnut, cherry, birch, and beech. Evergreen pine and mixed oak and pine forests make up the area not covered by deciduous forest. Loblolly pine is most prevalent in the eastern Coastal Plain, while white pine is more common in the western mountains. Sycamore, river birch, and willows line streams and rivers. In Coastal Plain swamps, forests of bald cypress, swamp oaks, tupelos, and occasionally Atlantic white-cedar are found. Small areas of red spruce and Fraser fir cover mountain tops in Virginia.
Small trees and shrubs found in Virginia include rhododendrons, azaleas, mountain-laurel, redbuds, and dogwoods. The state flower, the dogwood, is framed by clusters of colorful leaves, rather than true petals. A variety of wildflowers, including trilliums, windflowers, lady’s slippers, wild geraniums, asters, and goldenrods, bloom in spring, summer, and fall. "Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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