Producers (First Level)

"Producers, sometimes called autotrophs, make the nutrients they need from compounds and energy obtained from their environment. On dry land, most producers are green plants. In a process called photosynthesis, plants typically capture 1% of the solar energy that falls on their leaves and use it to combing carbon dioxide and water to form organic molecules, including energy-rich carbohydrates, which store the chemical energy they need. In freshwater and marine ecosystems, algae and aquatic plants growing near shorelines are the major producers. In open water, the dominant producers are phytoplankton--mostly microscopic organisms that float or drift in the water" (Miller, 42-43). Producers are the ONLY organisms that put energy into the energy system of an ecosystem--without them, the system would break down very rapidly.

American Holly
(Ilex opaca)
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  • Likes moist, well-drained soils, especially floodplains. Mixed hardwood forests.
  • Elev. To 4000 ft, higher in S. Appalachians
  • Eaten by deer, wild turkey, ants, thrushes, mockingbirds, catbirds, bluebirds

Eastern Hemlock
(Tsuga canadensis)
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  • Acid soils; often in pure stands.
  • Characteristic of moist, cool valleys and ravines; also rock outcrops, especially north-facing bluffs.
  • Eaten by grouse, deer, red squirrels

Flowering Dogwood
(Cornus florida)
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  • Both moist and dry soils of valleys and uplands in understory of hardwood forests; also in old fields and along roadsides
  • Eaten by at least 36 species of birds, including the bobwhite, the cedar waxwing, cardinals, flickers, mockingbirds, robins, wild turkey, and woodpeckers
  • Also eaten by the gray squirrel and fox squirrel, mammals from chipmunks and rabbits to bears and deer.

Pecan Tree
(Carya illinoinensis)
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  • Deep, well-drained soils with a steady source of water
  • Eaten by squirrels, wild turkey, blue jays, and crows

White Oak
(Quercus alba)
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  • Grows best in deep, well-drained loamy soils.
  • Eaten by caterpillars, squirrels, blue jays, crows, woodpeckers, deer, turkey, quail, mice, chipmunks, ducks, and raccoons

Blue Ridge Goldenrod
(Solidago spithamaea)
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  • Rock outcrops, ledges, and cliffs at high elevations.
  • Shallow and acidic soil; full sun.
  • Eaten by various songbirds and small mammals
  • "Confined to small areas on a few rocky summits in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this species and many of its rare associates are extremely vulnerable to such seemingly minor threats as trampling by hikers, climbers, and sightseers; as well as to more pervasive threats such as acid precipitation and other forms of air pollution which have been found to be concentrated at the higher elevations in the Southern Appalachians. An exotic insect, the balsam woolly adelgid, is contributing to the decline of the fir forests adjacent to some of the cliffs where Blue Ridge goldenrod grows. Although the goldenrod does not grow beneath dense forests, the death of the adjacent forests is resulting in drier and hotter conditions. All of these factors may threaten the last remaining populations of Blue Ridge Goldenrod. Growing at some of the highest elevations in the Southern Appalachians, where the climate is significantly colder and weather harsher than surrounding areas, it’s suspected that global warming may be detrimental to this plant as well" (link).

Common Persimmon
(Diospyros virginiana)
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  • Tolerant of all soil types (even sand) and sun levels, but best on terraces of large streams and river bottoms with clays and heavy loams, with full sun.
  • Eaten by deer, squirrel, fox, skunk, bear, coyote, oppossum, raccoon, quail, wild turkey, cedar waxwing, catbird

Lesser Smoothcap
(Atrichum angustatum)
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  • Range not mapped
  • Exposed soil banks along roads and trails in woods; low to moderate elevations
  • Eaten by worms, caterpillars, and small mammals

Wild Blueberry
(Vaccinium corymbosum)
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  • Wooded or open areas with moist, acidic soils.
  • Eaten by the eastern bluebird, northern cardinal, gray catbird, wild turkey, red fox, rabbits, mice, skunks, chipmunks, bears

Kentucky Coffee Tree
(Gymnocladus dioicus)
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  • Full sun, rich and moist soils. Drought and flood tolerant. Not eaten much at all: foliage, branches, and beans are poisonous
  • The common name “coffee tree” derives from the use of the roasted seeds as a substitute for coffee in times of poverty. They are a very inferior substitute for real coffee, and caution should be used in trying them, as they are poisonous in large quantities.
  • “When Kentucky was first settled by the adventurous pioneers from the Atlantic states who commenced their career in the primeval wilderness, almost without the necessaries of life, except as they produced them from the fertile soil, they fancied that they had discovered a substitute for coffee in the seeds of this tree; and accordingly the name of Coffee-tree was bestowed upon it. But when communication was established with the sea-ports, they gladly relinquished their Kentucky beverage for the more grateful flavor of the Indian berry; and no use is at present made of it in that manner.” -AJ Downing

All range maps taken from here. That site also has a good bit of information about the plants themselves. By Angie Macias.