Bottomland Hardwood Forest: a type of deciduous and evergreen hardwood forest found in US broad lowland floodplains along large rivers and lakes. These forests are occasionally flooded, which builds up the alluvial soils required for the gum, oak and bald cypress trees that typically grow in this type of biome.
In the mid 19th century 35 million acres of Bottomland Hardwood Forest dominated the landscape from Virginia to Texas.
But then came the settlers and lumber barons; in five decades virtually all of the old-growth forest was cut down—the lush forests transformed into farms, pastures and cities, and the timber sold for ships, buildings and railroads.
We humans are remarkably efficient at destroying the natural world to suit our purposes.
Today, less than one percent of Old-growth Floodplain Forest remains; 11,000 acres of it is protected in Congaree National Park in South Carolina.
Bordered by the Congaree River on its southern edge the park provides the perfect habitat for this lowland forest and, as such, contains the largest remnant of old-growth floodplain forest in the United States.
Representative trees include Sweetgum, American Beech, Swamp Chestnut Oak, Bald Cypress and Loblolly Pine, with individual trees reaching heights of 150-200 feet.
|A Loblolly Pine reaches for the sky along the boardwalk trail.|
The diversity of plant and animal life in the tiny 26,000 acre park is astonishing; at the same time it's an atrocity that such a tiny remnant of this once-magnificent forest remains.
I didn't know a thing about bottomland hardwood forests until visiting Congaree National Park in May of 2019.
And I didn't plan to become righteously indignant about the plight of old-growth trees in the south. Really. My intention was only to discover a lightly-visited national park I hadn't been to before.
But after visiting this little-known gem of a park in South Carolina I can only hope to inspire others to raise their voices to protect old-growth groves—wherever they still exist.