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Eastern Blue Ridge Foothills

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About the Eastern Blue Ridge Foothills

The Eastern Blue Ridge Foothills are a region in North Carolina, consisting of two discontinuous pieces, each extending eastward from the Blue Ridge into the Piedmont. The northern portion is called the Brushy Mountains (locally referred to as the "Brushies") and the southern portion is called the South Mountains. The character of this region is intermediate between that of the Blue Ridge and the Piedmont. Different sources alternately classify this area in either the Blue Ridge or the Piedmont; we classify it in the Blue Ridge according to the US EPA's scheme, which reflects elevation, topography, geology, and plant communities.

This region consists of open, low mountains, mostly 1,000-2,800 feet in elevation. The terrain is heavily dissected, with narrow valleys and ridgetops, and numerous heavily-winding streams as well as winding ridgetops. The climate here tends to be drier and warmer than the areas to the northwest.

This region was originally covered in mixed oak and oak-hickory-pine forests. The South Mountains in particular harbor many uncommon and rare plant species, including the small whorled pogonia (Isotria medeoloides).

Much of this region is still forested, although the Brushy Mountains also have an abundance of fruit orchards at lower elevations. The South Mountains have a greater portion of forest cover, owing in part to protected land in South Mountains State Park and South Mountains Game Land. The region is sparsely populated; there is slightly more residential and commercial development in the Brushy Mountains. Historically, the South Mountains were used for gold mining, but these deposits were exhausted relatively early in the 20th century.

The far western end of this region borders the Blue Ridge to the northwest, in most places, the Southern Crystalline Ridges and Mountains, although the northern end of the South Mountains also has a small border with the Southern Metasedimentary Mountains. This region is mostly surrounded by the Northern Inner Piedmont, which is flatter, lower elevation, and has less forest cover and more diverse land use. However, the South Mountains are used as a dividing point between the northern and southern portions of the inner piedmont, and to the south, they border the Southern Inner Piedmont.

References

1. Comstock, J.A.; Griffith, G.E.; Omernik, J.M. "Ecoregions of North Carolina: Regional Descriptions", (2002) Web.