Celebrate Unique Southern Biodiversity this Earth Day
The South is home to many unique characters, including the plants and animals that have inhabited these lands for millennia.
As human beings, we sometimes forget that we aren’t the only species on earth. But indeed, the Lowcountry and Coastal Empire are home to some of the most interesting and exceptional natural habitats in the country, hosting some natural species that aren’t found anywhere else in the world but here. These are some of the most unique environmental habitats that we are lucky to have right in our backyards.
Stand on any dock in this area, and you’re bound to see it – blankets of marsh grass, standing tall and proud against the murky rivers and creeks that tangle around the coast. Spartina grass is the root of the marsh ecosystem, serving a multitude of valuable purposes for this very important marine environment. As a nutrient-rich plant species, marsh grass provides a constant food source for this habitat as well as a source of cover for animals to hide from prey. Depending upon the season, marsh grass changes color, turning from a grayish brown in the winter to a light green in the spring and bursting into an electric green with a nearly neon hue.
Another signature natural species of this area is the majestic live oak, found in ancient, dense maritime forests deep in the Lowcountry as well as in the squares and parks of urban Savannah. Live oaks provide food for many different wildlife species as well as serve as the over-story in the maritime forest habitat, along with the Southern magnolia, with its large, fragrant blooms, and the Eastern red cedar. (The Eastern red cedar is also very fragrant and helpful for keeping moths out of your clothes.) Sparkleberry trees and the yaupon holly fill in as the under-story in this unique environment, the latter of which Native Americans used to make tea with.
Evergreen wetlands stretch across the coastline in Georgia and South Carolina, serving as a vital environment to the overall landscape in the region. These wetlands are topped by red maple and loblolly bay trees in the over-story of the habitat, and an understory that of the dahoon holly, whose berries feed a lot of wildlife that roams and lives in the area. Button bush grows on the interior of the wetlands, along with native grasses that make for great dinners (and breakfasts and lunches) for ducks. Large animals utilize this habitat for eating and drinking, which then attracts their predators, too.
With a landscape as beautiful and vast as the one that surrounds us, there are truly a million different plant and animal species that make up the unique natural environments of this area – so celebrating the biodiversity of the South is really quite easy. All you have to do is look around you.