Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Royal E. Shanks

Committee Members

James T. Tanner, Fred H. Norris, A. J. Sharp, Lloyd F. Seatz


Introduction: Although the spruce-fir area of the Southern Appalachians has interested several investigators, there have been few studies of the herbaceous plants in relation to the canopy and none with this relationship as the primary objective. Ecological surveys have been made by Cain (1931, 1935), Oosting and Billings (1951), and Whittaker (1956), but their papers do not report details in reference to site types and include rather limited material on the ground cover. Possible site types were mentioned by Whittaker but were not described and few supporting data of an objective nature were included.

Cain in his 1935 paper on Ecological Studies of the Vegetation of the Great Smoky Mountains wrote

"To employ all layers in the characterization of forest types would confuse matter too greatly for applied science, yet to construct a forest type and site system on the tree layer alone is inadequate. We, too, will undoubtedly find the characterization at least of site classes within the forest types conveniently made on a basis of certain critical species of the inferior layers. That is, we will find that site classes are indicated by certain species or species combinations of herbs, shrubs, mosses, lichens, etc. as already demonstrated for northwestern America by Ilvessalo (1929), and for Adirondack region by Heimburger (1934)."

Because the forest-site concept has never been specifically applied to the Southern Appalachian coniferous forests, an intensive study of the spruce-fir areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been made with particular emphasis on the herbaceous and shrubby plant cover. This thesis will propose and describe such forest site types and will discuss other interrelationships of the lower and upper strata of these forests.

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