Dean of Students Emerita Gué Hudson talks about natural communities.
Nearby stands the Alston Campus Center, the hub of the Agnes Scott College community. Nature has communities, too. These are distinct assemblages of living things occurring naturally in places and shaped by natural processes.
This live oak (Quercus virginiana), shading the brick patio, is missing its community. Live oaks dwell in the diverse forests of Georgia’s barrier islands and coastal plain, said to support more plant and animal species than any other natural community in North America.
There it drapes itself with Spanish moss and resurrection fern; rubs shoulders with southern magnolia, cabbage palm, and sweetgum; throws its long arms around yaupon holly, wax myrtle, beautyberry, and tough bully; and has at its feet saw palmetto and woodland flowers. Its dense canopy shelters nesting animals, and its fallen acorns, called mast, feed hungry ones.
The live oak, Georgia’s official state tree, is an extraordinary plant: it tolerates salt spray on the coast, withstands both hurricanes and fires, can live for many hundreds of years, and is so strong that the architect of the first U.S. battleships insisted that they be framed with live oak.