231 Southern Mixed Forest Province


Southeastern United States, 193,000 mi2 (499,900 km2)


Land-surface form.--This province comprises the Piedmont and the irregular Gulf Coastal Plains, where 50 to 80 percent of the area slopes gently toward the sea. Local relief is 100 to 600 ft (30 to 180 m) on the Gulf Coastal Plains, and 300 to 1,000 ft (90 to 300 m) on the Piedmont. The flat coastal plains have gentle slopes and local relief of less than 100 ft (30 m). Most of the numerous streams in the region are sluggish; marshes, lakes, and swamps are numerous.

A stand of oak and pine A stand of oak and pine in the Southeastern Mixed Forest Province.

Climate.--The climate is roughly uniform throughout the region. Mild winters and hot, humid summers are the rule; the average annual temperature is 60 to 70F (15 to 21C). The growing season is long (200 to 300 days), but frost occurs nearly every winter. Precipitation, which averages from 40 to 60 in (1,020 to 1,530 mm) annually, is rather evenly distributed throughout the year, but peaks slightly in midsummer or early spring, when it falls mostly during thunderstorms. Precipitation exceeds evaporation, but summer droughts occur. Snow falls rarely and melts almost immediately.

Vegetation.--Climax vegetation is provided by medium-tall to tall forests of broadleaf deciduous and needleleaf evergreen trees. At least 50 percent of the stands are made up of loblolly pine, shortleaf pine, and other southern yellow pine species, singly or in combination. Common associates include oak, hickory, sweetgum, blackgum, red maple, and winged elm. The main grasses are bluestem, panicums, and longleaf uniola. Dogwood, viburnum, haw, blueberry, American beautyberry, youpon, and numerous woody vines are common. The West Gulf Coast is bordered along its shores by salt marshes characterized by the marsh grass Spartina.

Soils.--Ultisols dominate throughout the region, with locally conspicuous Vertisols formed from marls or soft limestones. The Vertisols are clayey soils that form wide, deep cracks when dry. Inceptisols on floodplains of the major streams are among the better soils for crops.

Fauna.--Fauna vary with the age and stocking of timber stands, percent of deciduous trees, proximity to openings, and presence of bottom-land forest types. Whitetail deer and cottontail rabbits are widespread. When deciduous trees are present on uplands, the fox squirrel is common. Gray squirrels live along intersecting drainages. Raccoon and fox inhabit the whole region and are hunted in many areas. Among mammals frequently encountered in the western part of this province is the nine-banded armadillo.

The eastern wild turkey, bobwhite, and mourning dove are widespread. Of the 20-odd bird species present in mature forest, the most common are the pine warbler, cardinal, summer tanager, Carolina wren, ruby-throated hummingbird, blue jay, hooded warbler, eastern towhee, and tufted titmouse. The red-cockaded woodpecker is an endangered species.

Forest snakes include cottonmouth moccasin, copperhead, rough green snake, rat snake, coachwhip, and speckled kingsnake. Fench and glass lizards are also found, as is the slimy salamander.