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North Carolina's Great Green Quilt

"Nowhere in all Eastern America has nature bestowed such a wonderful heirloom as this marvelously variegated great green quilt which is spread over North Carolina."

B. W. Wells
"The Patchwork of North Carolina's Great Green Quilt"
North Carolina Agriculture and Industry
February 12, 1925

Inspired by the beauty of the Big Savannah, Wells traveled the state from shore to mountains and gained insights into the different ecological zones he observed. He published his first scientific paper on the ecology of the state in 1924 and spent the following two summers focused on the Big Savannah in Pender County, studying the vegetation and environmental features of the site. He concluded that a unique soil type, together with the effects of annual fires and a high water table, combined to create the beautiful array of wildflowers. For the rest of his career, he studied other ecological issues of the state and considered the effects of a wide range of factors on vegetation, including Native Americans and meteorites.

Tall panic grass in brackish marsh
Panicum virgatum L. var. virgatum

Turk's cap lily, the beauty of the mountains
Lilium superbum L.

"Where the road checked the fires; shrub bog on the left, grass sedge bog on the right."
ca. 1925

The automobile gave Wells the opportunity to quickly survey the state as no one else had. Even with a full workload back at the college, he was able to publish his major survey of the state within four years of seeing the Big Savannah.

Quercus marilandica with pines in sandhills

Wells examined the sandhills, an area of the state which had almost been decimated by turpentine and logging in the 1800s. He used such observations to consider the past effects of humans on the landscape of the state, and to warn future generations about overuse.

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