Carolina Environmental Diversity Explorations

The longleaf pine savanna · By Dirk Frankenberg

Pocosin Wetland

Figure 12. The savanna meets a pocosin wetland. (Photograph by the author. More about the photograph)

Figure 12 shows an area where the longleaf pine forest meets, and grades into, a pocosin wetland. Pocosins are unusual wetlands because they are generally higher than their surroundings. Native Americans recognized this and called these communities “swamps on a hill.” Pocosin is the Algonquin word for that phrase.

The area where two natural communities meet is called an ecotone by ecologists. These areas often support a diverse biota because members of each community are found as well as plants and animals that occur between the communities but not within either one of them. The ecotone between longleaf pine savannas and pocosins is of particular interest because rare plants such as Venus flytraps and rough-leaf loosestrife are found here and almost nowhere else. Note the low-growing broad leafed vegetation of the pocosin extending into the pine savanna in the middle of the photograph.

Definitions

pocosin n.
An upland swamp (land that has saturated or nearly saturated soils most of the year) usually on higher ground or a hill located in the coastal plain of the southeastern United States.
ecotone n.
A transitional zone between two communities containing the characteristic species of each.
biota n.
The combined flora (plants) and fauna (animals) of a region.
savanna n.
A flat grassland that may or may not contain scattered clumps of trees.