The Exploration of Western America, 1800-1850: An Historical Geography

By E. W. Gilbert | Go to book overview

Chapter VI
THE NATURAL VEGETATION OF
THE REGION

The United States can be divided into three forest belts, Atlantic, Rocky Mountain and Pacific. The central or Rocky Mountain forest is separated from the other forests by a belt of desert on the west and a belt of grassland on the east.1

B. E. Livingston and F. Shreve have constructed a generalised map of the vegetation of the United States of America,2 which forms a useful basis for a discussion of the distribution of vegetation. A generalised map of this kind is particularly valuable in a study of the influence of vegetation on the history of the exploration of the area, as the great mass of information contained on a detailed map is apt to obscure the main influences. The area under consideration in this book is shown on Fig. 14, and the vegetation regions are numbered. On the east there are three distinct areas of forest, none of which greatly concern this book and can be summarily treated.

REGION I. THE SOUTH-EASTERN EVERGREEN FOREST . This forest region is not very dense and is largely composed of evergreen needle-leaved trees with an admixture of deciduous broad-leaved trees.3

____________________
1
This general arrangement is well described by Bowman in the following words: "A single unbroken forest belt extends across North America, the spruce forest of Canada. . . southward from this broad transcontinental forest belt are an Atlantic forest, a Pacific forest and a Rocky Mountain forest. The two intervening belts of country--the Great Plains and the Great Basin--are forestless though not treeless. This distribution is controlled largely by rainfall, though the distribution of species within each region is also controlled by insolation, temperature, wind velocity, water supply and geographic relation to postglacial centers of dispersal". I. Bowman, op. cit. p. 123.
2
B. E. Livingston and F. Shreve, The Distribution of Vegetation in the United States as related to the Climatic Conditions ( 1921), plate 2, p. 47.
3
The pinelands of the Gulf region are said "to present a very clean floor, carpeted by grasses, palmetto, pitcher-plants, and a multitude of other herbaceous species". B. E. Livingston and F. Shreve, op. cit. p. 40.

-65-

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