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Transition Hills

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About the Transition Hills

The Transition Hills are a small region extending from southern Tennessee into northeastern Mississippi and northwestern Alabama. They can be seen as a transition between the Southeastern Plains to the west and the Interior Plateau to the east.

This region consists of dissected, open hills with broad, round tops but steep side-slopes. It is underlain by top layers of silt, sand, clay, and gravel that originated as coastal plain sediments; underneath these are older layers of limestone, shale, and chert. Streams here tend to have low to moderate gradients. Especially towards the south of this region, most have cut through the easily-erodible coastal plain sediments to reach the lower, older layers. As such, soil types here are diverse and vary significantly between uplands and bottomlands.

This area was originally covered mostly in oak-hickory-pine forest. Dominant trees include white oak (Quercus alba), southern red oak (Quercus falcata), black oak (Quercus velutina), post oak (Quercus stellata), Chestnut oak (Quercus montana), American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), various hickories (Carya sp.), shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata), and some Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana). Chestnut oak and Virginia pine both reach their southwestern range limits here, excepting for a few scattered chestnut oak populations slightly farther west.

This region is still largely forested, but there is some cropland and pastureland on the valley bottoms as well as on some of the more gently-sloping hilltops. There are also significant areas of pine plantations here. The Tennesee river is dammed here, producing the large reservoir Pickwick Lake, which flooded most of the largest area of bottomlands in this region. There is some public protected land here. The region is sparsely populated; the largest town is Iuka, MS, with only around 3,000 people; besides this there are mostly only tiny, unincorporated towns.

This region is bordered to the northeast and east by the Western Highland Rim, except in the south where it is bordered alternatively by the Eastern Highland Rim in two places, and between them, by the Little Mountain region. In the north, it is bordered to the west by the Northern Hilly Gulf Coastal Plain, and in the south, it is bordered to the west by the Fall Line Hills, which also border the region to the south.

Plant Lists & In-Region Search

We do not yet have data to generate plant lists for a region as fine-tuned as this one. However you can move up to the broader Southeastern Plains and generate lists for that region: native plants or all plants. Or search that region's plants here:


1. Griffith, G.E.; Omernik, J.M.; and Azevedo, S.H. "Ecoregions of Tennessee (Poster)", U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA (1998) Web.

2. Griffith, G.E., Omernik, J.M., Comstock, J.A., Lawrence, S., Martin, G., Goddard, A., Hulcher, V.J., and Foster, T. "Ecoregions of Alabama and Georgia (color poster with map, descriptive text, summary tables, and photographs)", U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA (2001) Web.