Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

David K. Smith


Fall Creek Falls State Park is located in Van Buren and Bledsoe Counties, Tennessee, U.S.A. It is an 8800+ ha (22,000+ acre) resort park in east Tennessee that lies in two physiographic provinces, the Cumberland Plateau and the Eastern Highland Rim. The park contains a high diversity of habitats, including unique habitat types such as waterfalls, cave entrances, and limestone sinks. The park flora is little known, except for a study by Caplenor in 1955, which focused on the vascular flora of the park. An initial examination showed evidence of visitation by Dr. A. J. Sharp and Dr. A. Clebsch around 50 years ago, with only minor contributions from the area over the last 50 years. The results of all previous work showed only a combined total of 94 bryophyte taxa for Van Buren and Bledsoe Counties. This study has three main objectives: catalogue the bryophyte taxa of Fall Creek Falls State Park, as a resource for future management planning within the park; expand the bryophyte floras of Van Buren and Bledsoe Counties; and analyze phytogeographical data on the distribution of the flora of the park. Collections were made over a 16 month period from May of 2001 to September 2002. They were made using a focused collecting technique that relied on information from topographic, soils, and geology maps, as well as information from park officials and others familiar with the vegetation of the area. Rich sites were sampled carefully, in order to collect all possible additions to the park flora. This collecting protocol helped to meet the first two objectives for this study. A total of 228 taxa were collected, adding 164 taxa to the flora of Van Buren County and 16 to Bledsoe County. These taxa were then examined using distributional data from a variety ofbryological literature and it was found that there were six phytogeographical categories in which they could be grouped: cosmopolitan, those taxa with a distribution throughout the northern hemisphere and some presence in the southern hemisphere; widespread global distribution, similar to cosmopolitan, but lacking distribution on one northern hemisphere continent; widespread northern hemisphere, similar to cosmopolitan, but without a known presence in the southern hemisphere; global disjuncts, taxa with distributions that contain large geographic discontinuity between locations; widespread North American; and Eastern North American endemics, which can be further subdivided into Appalachian and Southern Appalachian endemics. Overall, Fall Creek Falls State Park is diverse in habitat types which equates to a rich bryophyte flora, with a wide global distribution.

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