Plant & Animal Life around Lake Bistineau
( An extension of the Lake Bistineau History Page.)
There are numerous resources of data on the flora and fauna of this area and I have selected only that information I considered directly related to attracting and sustaining the early human inhabitants to the Lake Bistineau area.
The prehistoric and historic peoples survival can be attributed to the great abundance of vegetal and animal resources found in the area. If you have other related information that you would like to share with the viewers of this document please email me at email@example.com
of the area consists of two communities:
a pine-oak flatwoods community and
a bottomland hardwood community.
flatwoods are found in the higher elevations or "upland areas" and
are dominated by longleaf, shortleaf, and loblolly pines with codominates being red and
white oaks, along with post, blackjack, water, and willow oaks. Also included are
black and mockernut hickories and tupelogum. Minor constituents include sweetgum, dogwood,
locust, maple, sassafras. Chestnuts and chinquapins were also common in the area before
the Chestnut Blight* . Starting from the upland areas, hardwoods become
increasingly dominant with decreasing elevation and increasing soil moisture.
* In the 1880's a harmful fungus known as blight, inhabited the United States from imported Japenese chestnut trees. Blight quickley spread, killing chestnuts and chinquapins, which is another species of chestnut that produces 1 nut per bur. In 1904 the Chestnut Blight was found in New York City and within 50 years it spread across the eastern United States. By 1950, the American Chestnut was essentially eliminated as a forest tree.
The Bottomland hardwoods are found at the lower elevations and were dominated by ironwood, white oak, hickory, sweetgum, beech, holly, maple and sassafras, with bald cypress* found in mostly inundated areas. Also found in the bottomland areas are post, water, and willow oaks, along with nuttall, cherrybark, and swamp chestnut oaks, birch, water elm, ash, bitter pecan or water hickory, southern magnolia, blue beech or ironwood, hawthornes, red maple, tupelogum, willow and black willow.
*The Baldcypress, its branches often draped with Spanish moss**, is to many people a symbol of the great swamps of the deep South. The tree is noted for its long life and the huge sizes it attains. It was once one of the most plentiful trees along drainages of the Southeast, but its value as a source of rot-resistant wood has caused depletion of many merchantable stands.
** The Spanish Moss is a flowering, perennial, moss of the pineapple family.The plant, which is native to the Western hemisphere from Argentina to the Southern United States, is the only species of the pineapple family indigenous to the United States. Spanish moss is rootless, living attached to the trunks and branches of trees. In 200 B .C. the Indians would use it for curing cancer and to prevent starvation; the Indians really had to limit how much they ate because Spanish Moss was very hard to find, it usually took 7 - 8 hours a day just to look for one plant. Spanish Moss was also used for dealing with problems like hunger or starvation.
Understory vegetation common to both communities consists of low shrubs and pines and include yaupon, American holly, American beautyberry, arrowwood, blackberries, grapes, greenbriars, dwarf palm, and sumacs.
Major food sources for prehistoric peoples included various types of nuts and berries abundant in the hardwood-dominated forest. Acorns and hickory nuts are high in fats and served as important sources of vegetable oil for many southeastern Indian groups and second, during the fall, they would attract deer and turkey, both important prey species for the Indians. Wild fruits and berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, wild grapes, persimmons, plums, and wild cherries served as a source of vitamins and carbohydrates for both prehistoric and historic peoples.
The hardwood and mixed hardwood forest areas
surrounding the lake were prolific game areas, providing cover, food, and reproductive
areas for important species of animals. The animals provided many of the daily needs for
both prehistoric, Native American populations and early European immigrants. In addition
to providing food, the animal products provided shelter, clothing, and a means of monetary
exchange, as well as bone, antler, and shell for tools, and feathers and various skins for
decorations. Deer, rabbit, squirrel, and turtle bones are among the most numerous bones
recovered from many archeological sites around the area.
Among the fish, economically important families for both prehistoric and historic populations, were: gar, sucker, catfish, sunfish, and drums.
Of the amphibians, only true frogs are valued for dietary purposes today, while the wide variety of turtles, turtle eggs, and alligators were used .The prehistoric alligator has survived time and can still be seen lurking in the waters of Lake Bistineau. For more about the alligator with some great photos click ALLIGATOR.
A wide variety of migratory birds, such as ducks, geese, and cranes were most numerous in the late fall and early winter, while other resident birds, such as turkeys, doves, and pigeons were available year-round.
Mammal species which provided staple meat supplies for the Indians as well as early European populations included deer, squirrels, and rabbits. Deer, due to its large size, actually provided the bulk of protein in the diet of prehistoric and historic peoples. Other important mammal resources included bears, opossums, and raccoons. One important resource of the early historic period was animal furs which formed the basis of the early fur trade in Louisiana. Valuable fur-bearing animals included rabbits, beavers, raccoons, weasels, and minks.
There was an abundance of all types of invertebrates in the area, along with various types of molluscs, including both bivalves and gastropods, and crustaceans used by the Indian tribes.
The availability of these vegetal and animal resources may have changed with the climatic alterations which have occurred over the past 9,000 - 10,000 years (See Climate), with different habitats increasing or decreasing in size. However, the climatic shift in the period subsequent to the Ice Age was never significant enough to precipitate a complete change in species composition and the modern distributions of animal species in and around Lake Bistineau is probably much the same as it was in the past 9,000 -10,000 years, and only the relative abundance of each species has changed.
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