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Wednesday, 09 September 2009 14:47

Zahner’s special affection for Highlands

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Biologist and ecologist Robert Zahner (1923-2007) was born in Summerville, S.C., and grew up in Atlanta. But his adopted “spiritual…
Wednesday, 02 September 2009 14:28

A natural passion for history

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Naturalist, photographer and writer Edwin Way Teale (1899-1980) was born in Joliet, Ill. American nature writing in descriptive prose inevitably…
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 14:53

Abbey’s tenure at ‘Redneck U’

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Radical ecologist and writer Edward Abbey (1927-1989) was born in Home, Penn., the son of a hardscrabble farmer and a…
Wednesday, 19 August 2009 14:29

Preserving Cherokee tradition

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Anthropologist James Mooney (1861-1921) devoted his life to detailing various aspects of the history, material culture, oral tradition, language, arts,…
Wednesday, 12 August 2009 13:29

Touch-me-nots and poison ivy

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Jewelweed, or “touch-me-not,” is one of the most appealing wildflowers commonly encountered throughout Western North Carolina. Many recognize the plant…
Wednesday, 05 August 2009 20:02

Letting nature point the way

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Horace Kephart is best known for Our Southern Highlanders (first published in 1913, with an expanded edition in 1922) and…
Wednesday, 29 July 2009 19:08

A fine flower to start with

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One of the best pieces of advice I ever received in regard to learning wildflowers was to “concentrate on one…
Wednesday, 22 July 2009 19:04

Wildflowers peaking right now

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Interesting wildflowers appear throughout Western North Carolina from late February into early November. Most wildflower identification and observation takes place…
Wednesday, 15 July 2009 19:59

Pawpaw is unique among fruits

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(Editors Note: George Ellison is on leave this week. But he says that his pawpaw trees have even more fruit…
Wednesday, 08 July 2009 19:32

From the chaos come ‘uktena’

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The natural history of a region consists of the plants, animals, and landscapes we can see and explore any given…
Wednesday, 01 July 2009 17:36

A nose for finding rare plants

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I enjoy leading natural history workshops, but I no longer derive much pleasure from herding people along a trail while…
Wednesday, 24 June 2009 16:33

Mountains of mushrooms

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Is this going to be a bumper year for wild mushrooms? Maybe so, if the rainfall we have been experiencing…
Wednesday, 17 June 2009 19:43

Northerners in our southern climes

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Elevations above 4,000 feet in the Blue Ridge Province can be thought of as a peninsula of northern terrain extending…
Wednesday, 10 June 2009 19:14

Caught in the spider’s alluring web

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Spiders are one of the most interesting — and sometimes disconcerting — critters to observe. Especially fascinating, to me, are…
Wednesday, 03 June 2009 18:54

The unique ways of the kingfisher

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Belted kingfishers are one of my favorite birds. A pair fishes along the small creek on our property during the…
Wednesday, 27 May 2009 17:40

The alluring calls of song birds

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In the opaque early-morning light outside our bedroom windows, the birds that reside in our woods — or do we…
Wednesday, 20 May 2009 17:17

Yaupon and the ‘Black Drink’

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For some years now — when walking the woodlands around ancient Cherokee settlements — I have been on the lookout…
Wednesday, 13 May 2009 16:30

The story of the fiddlehead

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Fiddleheads are emerging from the leaf litter in our forests. Almost everyone, even those not especially interested in plants, has…
Wednesday, 06 May 2009 16:26

A haven of nectar and beauty

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The irises my wife, Elizabeth, cultivates in our yard are coming into full bloom as I write this. Their shapes…
Wednesday, 29 April 2009 16:54

Wild mountain boars

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Numerous non-native plants have been introduced into the southern mountains during the last century or so. Many of these are…
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 16:38

Ancient chemical warfare

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I’m sometimes asked if the prehistoric Cherokees used any sort of poisons on their blowgun darts. These darts (slivers of…
Wednesday, 15 April 2009 16:14

Dogwoods in the mountains

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In the Smokies region, there are three species of dogwood. Everyone is familiar with flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), which is…
Wednesday, 08 April 2009 15:42

Old stone walls redux

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(Author’s Note: While running random Internet searches, I occasionally am confronted from out of the blue, as it were, with…
Wednesday, 01 April 2009 15:11

Bluebirds continue to fascinate

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My oh my what a wonderful day Plenty of sunshine in my way Zip-a-dee-doo-dah Zip-a-dee-eh Mr Bluebird’s on my shoulder…
Wednesday, 25 March 2009 20:40

Making friends with an injured crow

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According to the current Ornithological Union listing, the appropriate non-scientific name for a crow is “common crow.” How apt! Like…
Wednesday, 18 March 2009 20:15

Uplifted by the flight of birds

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Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about birds. I guess I have them on my mind, in part, because the…
Wednesday, 11 March 2009 19:45

The curious habits of birds

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The curious lifestyles and distinctive habits one can observe in the bird world are continually fascinating. Some things you can…
Wednesday, 04 March 2009 15:46

Popeyed pleasures

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Many people who spend some time walking the woodland stream banks and other wet areas here in the Smokies region…
Wednesday, 25 February 2009 19:42

Cowbirds a favorite to despise

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Some folks can’t stand house sparrows (a native of north Africa and Eurasia) while others detest starlings (a native of…
Wednesday, 18 February 2009 19:01

Reservoir rendezvous

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Joe Wright was born and raised in the high Nantahalas in the northwest corner of Macon County. He was 90-some-years-old…
Wednesday, 11 February 2009 17:39

Forsythia heralds the spring season

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The recent warm spell has the birds singing and various plants budding. One of these is forsythia. My wife, Elizabeth,…
Wednesday, 04 February 2009 16:23

Owls remain mysterious, alluring

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Of late, I have been hearing the owls sounding off on the slopes and ridge lines behind our home. Some…
Wednesday, 21 January 2009 15:57

Getting to know liverworts

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Some years ago, when I was first interested in plant identification, I became curious about liverworts. They are one of…
Wednesday, 14 January 2009 14:38

An interested observer

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omething banged against the office window above my desk. I assumed it was a bird of some sort. And since…
Wednesday, 07 January 2009 13:51

Wolf lore

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In the beginning, the people say, the dog was put on the mountain and the wolf beside the fire. When…
Wednesday, 31 December 2008 16:17

Winter wear

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(Note: A version of this essay will appear in an upcoming issue of “Chinquapin: The Newsletter of the Southern Appalachian…
Wednesday, 17 December 2008 15:06

Taking a likin’ to the lichen

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On a winter walk you will encounter numerous evergreen plants. None is more mysterious or delightful to behold than the…
Wednesday, 03 December 2008 13:23

My birding through the warbler

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It wasn’t until the late 1970s that my wife, Elizabeth, and I first started birding in a systematic fashion. That…
Wednesday, 05 March 2008 00:00

An early account of Western NC

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While crossing the Blue Ridge north of present Asheville in the early 1540s, Hernando de Soto’s scribes entered some brief…
Wednesday, 27 February 2008 00:00

Alum Cave for a breath of fresh air

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I recently happened upon an interesting article that described an excursion made in 1860 to the Alum Cave on the…
Wednesday, 20 February 2008 00:00

Highlands plateau still a world of green hills

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Several years ago I wrote about Bradford Torrey’s A World of Green Hills, which was published in 1898 by Houghton…
Wednesday, 13 February 2008 00:00

Upper world guardians

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We are all fascinated by birds. In addition to being pretty (even buzzards are pretty in their own way), they…
Wednesday, 06 February 2008 00:00

Dr. Elisha Mitchell

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While scanning the shelves of a rare bookstore in Asheville several months ago, I happened upon a regional volume by…
Wednesday, 30 January 2008 00:00

Right in the thick of it

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Our southern mountains are old and relatively sedate when compared with the Himalayas, Rockies, and other “young” mountain ranges. But…
Wednesday, 23 January 2008 00:00

It’s a dog’s life

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A new book has been published that will be of particular interest to area hunters, outdoorsmen, and dog lovers. It…
Wednesday, 16 January 2008 00:00

Sneaky snipe stamps scouts

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Until I started birding seriously as an adult, I didnÕt know that snipe actually existed. For years that bird was…
Wednesday, 09 January 2008 00:00

In living colour

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Cedar waxwings and American holly are with us year round. The waxwings wander around a lot in extended family groups,…
Wednesday, 02 January 2008 00:00

Cherokee and their bird stories

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The second soul, that of physiological life, is located in the liver, and is of primary importance in doctoring and…
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 00:00

A plant’s purpose

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There are more than 300,000 plant species in the world. Some are edible, some can be used for their medicinal…