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Wednesday, 31 May 2017 16:53

A blemish by any other name

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Systems of mature trees and shrubs are covered with blemishes that signal age: cankers, seams, burls, butt scars, sterile conks,…
Wednesday, 17 May 2017 15:52

The honest little bird

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On one level, the natural history of a region consists of its terrain, habitats, plants, animals and how they interrelate.…
Wednesday, 03 May 2017 15:21

Moonshine stills weren’t the only stills

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All this spring, golden birch catkins were dangling throughout the woodlands of the Smokies region. These are the male, pollen-carrying…
Wednesday, 05 April 2017 15:52

A fox sighting is always a delight

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In the natural world here in the Blue Ridge, there are certain visual images that rivet the attention of human…
Wednesday, 22 March 2017 16:42

Special places define us

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One never tires of discovering special places here in the southern mountains. Through the years, such places readily become old…
I have files in my computer containing articles I’ve forgotten that I wrote until, by chance, I run across them…
“The line runs down the meander of the ridge to where Bossy dropped her first calf.”  “The line runs to where…
Wednesday, 08 February 2017 16:59

The copper run in the Great Smokies

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The worldwide annual production of “high conductivity copper” had by 1899 risen to 470,000 tons, of which 300,000 tons were…
Wednesday, 25 January 2017 16:25

A search for Horace Kephart’s alcove

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The setting for Horace Kephart’s posthumous novel Smoky Mountain Magic (2009) is the Cherokee Indian Reservation, Bryson City and Deep…
Wednesday, 28 December 2016 16:42

Delving into the origin of Native American words

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Editor’s note: This article was first published in The Smoky Mountain News in December 2003. Tuckaseigee, Oconaluftee, Heintooga, Wayah, Cullasaja,…
Wednesday, 14 December 2016 18:03

A new, excitable girl in our quiet cove

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Essays and columns are difficult to categorize. Dividing them into the formal and informal is about all anyone can agree…
Wednesday, 30 November 2016 16:38

When frost comes, we know winter has arrived

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The first frost serves as a given year’s most distinctive dividing line. It’s hard to pinpoint just when winter becomes…
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 18:24

Come winter, trees reveal their blemishes

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Like an old man’s face, mature hardwood tree trunks are covered with blemishes that signal age: cankers, seams, burls, butt…
Wednesday, 19 October 2016 16:24

Robin redbreasts are a perennial favorite

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Our elementary school primers were populated by robins pulling worms out of holes. They appeared on television screens on Saturday…
Wednesday, 05 October 2016 16:01

Bryson City and the widow Cline

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Before the settlement named Charleston became the village named Bryson City in 1889, it was a tract of land known…
Wednesday, 21 September 2016 15:53

Water was not always taken for granted

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Old-time mountaineers often picked their home and church sites according to the location and purity of springs. They were connoisseurs…
Wednesday, 07 September 2016 15:59

Buckeyes both a good luck charm and a poison

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A large buckeye tree overhangs and supports the swinging gate leading into and out of our pasture. Since we are…
Wednesday, 24 August 2016 11:29

It’s ragweed that is the real culprit

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“Hay fever: An acute allergic condition of the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes, characterized by…
Wednesday, 10 August 2016 16:28

Not a lot known about Bryson City’s namesake

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Two well known sites in Swain County were named for Col. Thaddeus Dillard Bryson, a significant figure in Western North…
Wednesday, 13 July 2016 15:38

Lungwort used for making beer, bread

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Lungwort is the leaf-like lichen common on tree trunks several feet or more above ground level. It resembles liverwort but…
Wednesday, 29 June 2016 03:11

Backyard weed merits deadly respect

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“Seeds of this common weed do indeed contain an hallucinogenic component, but, as is so often the case, the same chemical…
Wednesday, 15 June 2016 15:27

Common ash tree deserves more attention

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“How many thousand-thousand of untold white ash trees are the respected companions of our doorways, kindliest trees in the clearing…
Wednesday, 01 June 2016 15:57

Halls Cabin built right on state line

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Certain place names in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have become iconic: Gregory Bald, Thunderhead, Chimney Tops, Jump-off, Mt.…
Like poisonous serpents, some plants developed toxic properties in order to protect themselves against predators. Besides insects, the major plant…
Wednesday, 04 May 2016 02:24

32 years and counting for birding expedition

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This past weekend marked the occasion of the 32nd annual Great Smokies Birding Expedition. Fred Alsop, the ornithologist at East…
Wednesday, 20 April 2016 14:09

Changing a flat in a rising creek

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Forty years ago this coming July 5, my wife, Elizabeth, and I and our three children moved into a small…
Wednesday, 06 April 2016 15:01

Graceful ferns a fiddling

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“Marvel for a moment at the fern fiddlehead. It stands like a watch spring coiled and ready to unwind ……
Wednesday, 23 March 2016 16:29

Time for spring migrants in the mountains

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The cove we live in has been alive with birds for several weeks now. As alive with birds as it’s…
Wednesday, 09 March 2016 17:13

Always questions about the fiddlehead fern

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In the early 1700s British astronomer and mathematician Edmund Hillary, of comet fame, called [the spiral formed by a fern’s…
Wednesday, 10 February 2016 16:56

This year’s flowers, last year’s berries

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Last summer while I was walking along the creek below our home, small splotches of red and white at the…
Wednesday, 27 January 2016 16:41

Hogs have long been an Appalachian staple

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Hog Holler, Hog Branch, Hog Camp Branch, Hog Cane Branch, Hog-eye Branch, Hogback Gap, Hogback Holler, Hogback Knob, Hogback Ridge,…
Wednesday, 13 January 2016 16:27

Ironwood is piquing the interest of WNC residents

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There seems to be an upsurge of interest in ironwood in Western North Carolina of late. It’s curious how reader…
Wednesday, 30 December 2015 16:48

Plants and animals who choose to hunker down

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The evergreen plants and birds that overwinter here in the Southern Appalachians have made fundamental “choices” in how their lives…
Wednesday, 16 December 2015 17:29

The smelly truth about stink bugs

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Well, I knew it would happen sooner or later. Our house has been invaded by a herd of pygmy rhinoceroses,…
“As for the Horseshoe Rock, it is one of those curving balds of solid rock. The depressions found on the…
In 1900 about 35 percent of the deciduous forest in the Southern Appalachians was comprised of American chestnut (Castanea dentata).
Wednesday, 04 November 2015 15:42

Ferns stand out this time of year

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One of my favorite times to observe ferns is in winter when they stand out in the brown leaf-litter. Of…
Wednesday, 21 October 2015 17:00

Observing the outside world with inward eyes

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Looking back I can remember that 1975 was a wildflower sort of year.   1980 was a tree sort of year. 1984 was…
Wednesday, 07 October 2015 17:46

The secret of ministry of frost

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It’s Oct. 6 as I write this. The first frost hasn’t as yet arrived. But it won’t be long coming.…
Wednesday, 23 September 2015 15:12

Dealing with the dreaded writer’s block

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In the June 14, 2004, issue of The New Yorker magazine, there is an essay titled “Blocked! Why Do Writers…
Wednesday, 09 September 2015 16:15

My favorite literary opening paragraphs

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I don’t like to talk or write about writing — but when forced to do so by, say, an approaching…
“It’s football time in Tennessee!” is what John Ward, the long-time announcer for the University of Tennessee, used to declare…
Wednesday, 29 July 2015 16:18

Plant gall formation is somewhat of a mystery

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When it rains it pours. Within the past week or so, I received two emails about plant galls. That’s two…
When my son, now grown, was about 9 or 10, he queried me one summer day about the foamy bubbles…
Wednesday, 01 July 2015 15:04

Old-time mountain hogs were essential livestock

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Hog Holler, Hog Branch, Hog Camp Branch, Hog Cane Branch, Hog-eye Branch, Hogback Gap, Hogback Holler, Hogback Knob, Hogback Ridge,…
Wednesday, 17 June 2015 15:43

Trumpet vine is tenacious and beautiful

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It’s mid-June again … the time of the year when certain plants can be relied upon to do their thing…
Certain questions inevitably pop up during plant identification outings. One has to do with whether or not eastern hemlock trees…
A friend of mine who is a veteran backcountry explorer in the Smokies sent a recent email to me and…
Wednesday, 06 May 2015 17:18

Shelving books is a very personal task

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For awhile everything was in control. But that didn’t last. It never does. Once again my books are in total…
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