Wild mountain boars
 

Wild mountain boars

Numerous non-native plants have been introduced into the southern mountains during the last century or so. Many of these are…
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Ancient chemical warfare
 

Ancient chemical warfare

I’m sometimes asked if the prehistoric Cherokees used any sort of poisons on their blowgun darts. These darts (slivers of…
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Dogwoods in the mountains
 

Dogwoods in the mountains

In the Smokies region, there are three species of dogwood. Everyone is familiar with flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), which is…
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Old stone walls redux
 

Old stone walls redux

(Author’s Note: While running random Internet searches, I occasionally am confronted from out of the blue, as it were, with…
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Bluebirds continue to fascinate
 

Bluebirds continue to fascinate

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…
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Making friends with an injured crow
 

Making friends with an injured crow

According to the current Ornithological Union listing, the appropriate non-scientific name for a crow is “common crow.” How apt! Like…
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Uplifted by the flight of birds
 

Uplifted by the flight of birds

Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about birds. I guess I have them on my mind, in part, because the…
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The curious habits of birds
 

The curious habits of birds

The curious lifestyles and distinctive habits one can observe in the bird world are continually fascinating. Some things you can…
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Popeyed pleasures
 

Popeyed pleasures

Many people who spend some time walking the woodland stream banks and other wet areas here in the Smokies region…
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Cowbirds a favorite to despise
 

Cowbirds a favorite to despise

Some folks can’t stand house sparrows (a native of north Africa and Eurasia) while others detest starlings (a native of…
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Reservoir rendezvous
 

Reservoir rendezvous

Joe Wright was born and raised in the high Nantahalas in the northwest corner of Macon County. He was 90-some-years-old…
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Forsythia heralds the spring season
 

Forsythia heralds the spring season

The recent warm spell has the birds singing and various plants budding. One of these is forsythia. My wife, Elizabeth,…
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Owls remain mysterious, alluring
 

Owls remain mysterious, alluring

Of late, I have been hearing the owls sounding off on the slopes and ridge lines behind our home. Some…
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Getting to know liverworts
 

Getting to know liverworts

Some years ago, when I was first interested in plant identification, I became curious about liverworts. They are one of…
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An interested observer
 

An interested observer

omething banged against the office window above my desk. I assumed it was a bird of some sort. And since…
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Wolf lore
 

Wolf lore

In the beginning, the people say, the dog was put on the mountain and the wolf beside the fire. When…
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Winter wear
 

Winter wear

(Note: A version of this essay will appear in an upcoming issue of “Chinquapin: The Newsletter of the Southern Appalachian…
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Taking a likin’ to the lichen
 

Taking a likin’ to the lichen

On a winter walk you will encounter numerous evergreen plants. None is more mysterious or delightful to behold than the…
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My birding through the warbler
 

My birding through the warbler

It wasn’t until the late 1970s that my wife, Elizabeth, and I first started birding in a systematic fashion. That…
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An early account of Western NC
 

An early account of Western NC

While crossing the Blue Ridge north of present Asheville in the early 1540s, Hernando de Soto’s scribes entered some brief…
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Alum Cave for a breath of fresh air
 

Alum Cave for a breath of fresh air

I recently happened upon an interesting article that described an excursion made in 1860 to the Alum Cave on the…
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Highlands plateau still a world of green hills
 

Highlands plateau still a world of green hills

Several years ago I wrote about Bradford Torrey’s A World of Green Hills, which was published in 1898 by Houghton…
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Upper world guardians
 

Upper world guardians

We are all fascinated by birds. In addition to being pretty (even buzzards are pretty in their own way), they…
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Dr. Elisha Mitchell
 

Dr. Elisha Mitchell

While scanning the shelves of a rare bookstore in Asheville several months ago, I happened upon a regional volume by…
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Right in the thick of it
 

Right in the thick of it

Our southern mountains are old and relatively sedate when compared with the Himalayas, Rockies, and other “young” mountain ranges. But…
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It’s a dog’s life
 

It’s a dog’s life

A new book has been published that will be of particular interest to area hunters, outdoorsmen, and dog lovers. It…
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Sneaky snipe stamps scouts
 

Sneaky snipe stamps scouts

Until I started birding seriously as an adult, I didnÕt know that snipe actually existed. For years that bird was…
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In living colour
 

In living colour

Cedar waxwings and American holly are with us year round. The waxwings wander around a lot in extended family groups,…
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Cherokee and their bird stories
 

Cherokee and their bird stories

The second soul, that of physiological life, is located in the liver, and is of primary importance in doctoring and…
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A plant’s purpose
 

A plant’s purpose

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

A honey of a locust

Every few years, there will be a bumper crop of long flat strap-shaped honey locust pods, many up to two…
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Rocking out
 

Rocking out

Here in the southern mountains there are magical habitats to be explored in every direction and at every elevation. Periglacial…
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The essential nature of winter
 

The essential nature of winter

When late November finally arrives, my wife, Elizabeth, and I go into another mode. Her busy season in the gallery-studio…
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Quiz time
 

Quiz time

Naturalists are always being quizzed about this or that. Turn about is fair play. So, are you ready for a…
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Winter preparation
 

Winter preparation

If you’ve been getting out in the woods at all lately, you’re aware that it’s been an especially good season…
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When litter is good
 

When litter is good

Due to the virtual absence of wind and rain, the fall color season is lingering with us. But winter weather…
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Overnight hibernation
 

Overnight hibernation

As I write this on Monday morning, we’ve just had our initial hard frost of the year here in Swain…
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The gall
 

The gall

The various relationships that exist between plants and animals are fascinating. My view of wildflower ecology is dominated by the…
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Uncovering winter’s delight
 

Uncovering winter’s delight

Some trees that might be difficult to locate during the spring through fall foliage season become more apparent in winter.…
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Beauty of the cardinal flower
 

Beauty of the cardinal flower

The fall wildflower season has arrived. Along roadsides and woodland edges some of our more robust native plants are now…
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Shrills in the night
 

Shrills in the night

When I was growing up in the tobacco-farming portion of the southern Virginia piedmont, there were many haunted outbuildings throughout…
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Sweet bubby bush
 

Sweet bubby bush

I recently received an email from a reader who asked, “Could you write about the sweet bubby bush? That’s the…
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Saying farewell to summer
 

Saying farewell to summer

It’s mid-September ... late summer is sliding toward early autumn. The end of summer officially arrives with the autumnal equinox…
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Walnut toxicity
 

Walnut toxicity

The walnut trees along the creek where we live are exhibiting a bumper crop this year. At night we are…
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Enchanting the summer evening
 

Enchanting the summer evening

No late summer wildflower is more widely recognized than evening primrose. The four broad yellow petals that open in the…
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All in a day’s work
 

All in a day’s work

One of the more interesting and entertaining early descriptive accounts of the southern mountains is contained in a diary kept…
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Remarkable red cedar
 

Remarkable red cedar

I sometimes have occasion to drive Interstate 81 up the Great Valley of Tennessee and Virginia to Washington, D.C. As…
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Ginkgo — a living fossil
 

Ginkgo — a living fossil

When a street was being cut in front of the new county administration building here in Bryson City back in…
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The golden season
 

The golden season

It’s starting to become the goldenrod time of the year. Goldenrods — like asters, thistles, cosmos, zinnias, daisies, coneflowers, dahlias,…
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Hollyhocks and reminders of the past
 

Hollyhocks and reminders of the past

Sometimes it’s difficult to draw the line between the natural and cultivated plant worlds. As cultivated plants escape they often…
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