Field Guide to West Virginia
It's been a little while since I posted field notes for the guides, but I've been plugging away at them and have a few stocked up that I'll be posting throughout the week. I've been generally focused on the mid-atlantic and southeast, really for no other reason than it feels satisfying to see completed chunks of the map. I keep going back and forth on whether this project makes sense to try to complete, and there are definitely days when I look at the map and just want to quit, but for whatever reason I keep on keepin' on with it.
So on that note - John Denver wasn't lying about almost heaven West Virginia. It's been too long since I've visited, but through the research for this guide I was instantly brought back to the state's endless depths of green. It's home to an almost unfair number of natural sites and landmarks, including the Monongahela National Forest, the New River Gorge, and the Dolly Sods Wilderness - the highest plateau east of the Mississippi. The biological makeup reflected the habitats provided by the lush, wet forests, as well as the hardiness required for mountain living. On to the fun stuff -
Mountain Chorus Frog - This species has come up a few times in my research because of it unusual dispersal - there's one population in the central Appalachian mountains, and a second in Alabama (a state with an absolutely immense amount of overlooked biodiversity that I'm really looking forward to getting into).
American Ginseng - Sought after to the point of endangerment, ginseng's history as a curative herb goes back thousands of years. Fueled in part by its "man root" shape, there was a belief that plants' shapes relational to the human form gave insight to their medicinal benefits. The older the root, the more convoluted and human-like the form becomes.
Timber Rattlesnake - Also known as the Canebrake Rattler, it's the state reptile, was a common revolutionary war symbol, and happens to be the species on the Gadsden Flag. Listed as endangered in multiple east coast states, the Canebrake suffers from the same threats of extermination as so many other snakes. Wandering sidebar: Look - I hate snakes more than anybody (sorry to my herpophiles), but if you find one, please just let them be. They're important parts of the ecosystem, help control rodent populations, and - like everything else I've covered in this project - their presence serves a purpose.
So that's it for West Virginia, I've also completed Georgia, Texas, and South Carolina, and am currently working on Pennsylvania. The pace for these is going to pick up a bit in the coming weeks, so if you have requests for your state let me know!