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A False Recovery, But North Carolina's Ecoregions are Complete!

June 9th, 2020 by Alex Zorach

Unfortunately, shortly after my last post about recovery from COVID-19, I had a relapse, and my recovery from this turned out to be much slower and more irregular than the first time around. Initially, this relapse was scary and confusing because I had not ready any accounts of people with similar experiences. However, it is now clear that a certain portion of people have illnesses that drag on for weeks or even a few months, with recurring, sometimes bizarre symptoms.

There has now been some media coverage of people with experiences similar to mine, such as this article on people who have COVID-19 symptoms for months in The Guardian, and an article about patients experiencing relapses of COVID-19 symptoms in Vox.

I have still been working on the site off and on, but, as before, have been neglecting the social media presence and blog updates. I am finally feeling mostly better again, and I'm hoping that this time I will be able to get back to my usual level of work without any further setbacks.

I also want to highlight some of the work I did get done over the past couple months.

Some Excitement About North Carolina

Ecoregion articles are now finished for North Carolina and I have begun adding images for many of them. North Carolina is a fascinating state with respect to ecology and plant diversity. It contains the highest-elevation parts of the southern Appalachians, and thus is home to many northerly plant species that reach the southern limits of their range, such as the red spruce (Picea rubens) at the highest elevations, or yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) at slightly lower ones. These are in turn part of forest communities that in many ways resemble more northerly forest types.

Farther east, the state also has vast expanses of swamps, peatlands, flatwoods, and coastal wetlands and barrier islands, each of which supports its own unique plant communities. It is also geologically diverse, and the diversity of terrain and soil types further drives plant diversity.

You can explore the map here:
This clickable map can also be found on the page on North Carolina. We have similar maps for all lower 48 U.S. states, but the articles are only finished for the states in the northeast. Follow the link in the footer to see maps of other states.

We also published a page on beetleweed (Galax urceolata), an herbaceous plant that is most common in the southern Appalachians, that many people may be familiar with due to its widespread use in flower arrangements, a practice that can sometimes threaten wild populations of this plant.
Photo by Heidi Large, Public Domain, Source.

Enjoy, and hopefully, stay tuned for more active social media postings again!

We're Back After COVID-19 Setbacks

April 3rd, 2020 by Alex Zorach

You may have noticed an absence of blog and social media activity over the past several weeks.

A few weeks ago, I came down with a mysterious illness that I strongly suspect to be COVID-19. Although it was quite scary, I am recovering thoroughly. During this time, I also began coaching several of my friends who were also experiencing symptoms, some of them more serious cases than mine.

Between this and the additional stressors of the social isolation and changes to our society, I have put less time into working on bplant.org. However, I still did make some significant progress, I just have not been publishing updates on the results, because managing social media accounts can often be just as time-consuming as developing and maintaining the site itself. Rather than let the site's content suffer, I kept working on the site and scaled back my time put into social media.

I am feeling much better now and am back to having more time to work on the site. One good thing about the crisis we are in is that it doesn't affect my ability to work on the website at all, nor does it affect my ability to be out alone in nature working with plants, observing and photographing them in ways that synergize with my work on the site.
This photo shows a table mountain pine (Pinus pungens), a pine endemic to the Appalachians. This photo is located in the Southern Crystalline Ridges and Mountains ecoregion of the Blue Ridge. Photo © CK Kelly, CC BY 4.0, Source.

Update on Recent Progress

Some major progress over the past couple months includes completion of ecoregion articles for the following states:We also have added images to some of these articles, although many of them still need images. You can read about our search for ecoregion photos in our previous blog post. We've already begun work on Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, and North Carolina.

We also continue to add new plant articles. Some of the latest:These three articles are directly related to our completion of ecoregion articles in Michigan (where jack oak and northern white-cedar are key components of the forests) and Virginia and West Virginia (where table-mountain pine can be found in the Appalachians.) We have prioritized completing plant articles that are interlinked with our ecoregion articles.

And we have one new plant comparison guide:This is just a selection of highlights of the work we have completed in recent months. We also did a ton of expansion and improvement to existing articles.

Expect More Activity & Communication Again!

You can expect things to return to the normal activity level shortly!

Help Us Find Ecoregion Photos

February 27th, 2020 by Alex Zorach

One of the things we have been focusing on over the past few months is adding photos to our ecoregion articles. Of the 165 articles we have completed on Level 4 ecoregions (the finest level of detail on our site) we have added images to 77 of these, which means that a lot of articles still lack images. Some of the higher-level regions also need images.

We have been selecting images that illustrate the aspects of topograpy and vegetation cover that make each region unique. We want the photos to visually reinforce what our article describes in words.

Do you have any photos we could use?

We are still missing visuals for a large number of ecoregions, including many where we have completed articles. If you live in or near one of the regions for which we do not have a photo, and you either have taken one yourself (or could take one) that you would like to contribute, or if you know of an open-licensed photo that we could use, please get in touch with us.

We have been searching Flickr and Wikimedia Commons for suitable photos, but searching is time-consuming, and any photos you can point us to will save us valuable time that we can commit to working on other aspects of the site. Also, if you know of a large repository of open-licensed images that may help us, please let us know about that too!

What makes a good photo?

The best photos:
  • show the topography of the land, which often involves being shot from an overlook, observation tower, or the summit of a hill or mountain. Aerial photos taken from a low altitude are often ideal for flatter regions.
  • show the typical land use in the region.
  • show the typical vegetation cover, ideally with a deep depth of field so as to show both a closeup of some vegetation, and a whole ecosystem in the background.
  • illustrate aspects of the region that make it different from its surroundings.
  • are aesthetically pleasing and have good composition and lighting.
  • either are in the public domain or have an open license that allows reuse, such as CC BY, or CC BY-SA. We avoid licenses with NC (non-commercial) clauses because they can pose problems when combining works with CC BY-SA licenses, as well as unpredictable legal problems in some EU states.
It's not always possible for a single photo to do all of these at once, but we seek out photos that do as many of them as possible. At a bare minimum, the photo must show the region and we must be legally allowed to use it, so copyrighted photos must be accompanied by permission from the photographer or copyright holder for us to use it.

Winter photos can sometimes be excellent for showing the terrain and also drawing attention to evergreens in a landscape of mostly-deciduous plants.

Photo Gallery: Highlights

Here are some of the best photos we have added recently; the captions explain some of why we chose these photos:

Midcoast

This photo taken near Cushing Briggs, ME, shows a typical Midcoast scenery, with a rocky shoreline with coastal islands and peninsulas. The nutrient-poor areas adjacent to the water are usually dominated by conifers, with white pine dominant here. This is a crop and edit of a photo by Rich Brooks. Photo © Rich Brooks, CC BY 2.0, Source.

Glaciated High Allegheny Plateau

This photo shows the Pine Creek Gorge in Tioga County, from the Mid State Trail at Gillespie Point, which illustrates the typical landscape in this region. The hills are steep but smooth, and the forests are mostly deciduous but with some conifers. Photo © Nicholas A. Tonelli, CC BY 2.0, Source.

Northern Limestone/Dolomite Valleys

This photo, from Limestone Township, PA, shows a typical scene of farms, reflective of most of this region. The forested ridge in the distance is part of the sandstone ridges that this small, relatively flat valley is nestled between. Photo © Gerry Dincher, CC BY-SA 2.0, Source.

Chesapeake-Pamlico Lowlands and Tidal Marshes

This photo shows a tidal marsh at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, one of the larger preserves in the Chesapeake-Pamlico Lowlands and Tidal Marshes region. Low-lying marshy areas are dominated by grasses, and woody plants are only found on higher ground, visible here in the distance. Photo © Robert Pos, CC BY 2.0, Source.

Southern Crystalline Ridges and Mountains

This photo, taken from the Green Knob Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, shows the typical landscape of the Southern Crystalline Ridges and Mountains of the Blue Ridge mountains, with rugged, forested mountains with well-dissected flanks. Photo © Ron Cogswell, CC BY 2.0, Source.

New River Plateau

This photo taken in Independence, Virginia, shows a landscape typical of the New River Plateau, with pastureland on the lower, flatter terain, and forest on the steeper uplands. The soil is visibly rocky and shallow and the terrain is irregularly hilly. Photo © Joe Haupt, CC BY-SA 2.0, Source.

Looking for the collage that showed up when this was shared on social media? You can find it here.

Now that you have a good idea of what we are looking for, if you think you may have something to contribute, you can explore our ecoregions via the US state maps, our ecoregion locator, or browsing all of North America, and see if you have or know of any suitable photos for a region where we do not have one yet.

And, even if you aren't able to help in this way, please enjoy what is already there on our site; the main purpose of these articles is educational, so having more people reading the articles and looking at the existing photos is helping us achieve our goals as well!