Keeping Our Streams Healthy
North Carolina’s streams and rivers are invaluable resources. Not only do they provide a source of fresh water for fish and wildlife, they provide humans with water for drinking, irrigation, power production, transportation, fishing, boating, swimming, and much more.
You, your family and your friends can all become “streamkeepers” by monitoring the health of the streams near you. By doing so, you help protect and restore fish populations, wildlife habitat and water quality.
Here are some simple ways to help your streams:
- Don’t move the rocks ~ Rocks serve as hiding places and homes for many animals, including macroinvertebrates, mollusks and salamanders.
- Keep stream habitat intact ~ Native stream-side vegetation, including grasses, shrubs and trees provide good habitat for wildlife, as well as a nutrient source for stream animals. Vegetation also helps prevent erosion.
- Safely pick up as much litter as you can ~ Trash that breaks down in the water may be eaten by fish and other wildlife, and could possibly alter the water chemistry. Stream litter can also travel all the way to the ocean!
- Report any activities that may harm a stream, such as dumping garbage, tires or motor oil.
- Clean up after your pets ~ Be sure to keep pet scat out of the streams.
Stream Species in the Spotlight: Southern Appalachian Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)
A member of the salmonidae family, this trout is the only native trout in N.C. and is limited to the cold streams in the western region of our state.
Download the following resources:
How to identify trout species (PDF)>
Searching for Spring Wildflowers
Nothing says “spring is here!” quite like flowers. And North Carolina has plenty of them–we’re home to nearly 3,000 flowering plants! Here are five popular spring bloomers that are native to our great state:
- Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) | Bloom Time and Range: March – May; statewide, most common in mountains. Flower Fact: Columbine has a deep spur at the base of each petal that attracts hummingbirds to pollinate the flower with their long beaks.
- Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) | Bloom Time and Range: April – July; primarily mountains and coastal plain. Flower Fact: Also known as a “moccasin flower,” these wild orchids have a fungal partner in the soil and cannot survive without that fungus.
- Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) | Bloom Time and Range: April – May; mountains only. Flower Fact: This colorful trillium produces a scarlet berry that is visible later in the summer.
- Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) | Bloom Time and Range: March-April; low woods and bogs statewide. Flower Fact: The root is full of calcium oxalate crystals which, if eaten raw, can cause painful burning and swelling in the mouth and throat. Native Americans used parts of the plant to treat snakebites.
- Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) | Bloom Time and Range: March-April; mixed deciduous forests in mountains and piedmont. Flower Fact: This flower gets its name from the bright red-orange sap in the plant’s poisonous rhizome. Native Americans used the sap as skin paint and for medicine.
All About Eastern Bluebirds
The colorful eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) was once a common songbird throughout our state. That was until bluebirds lost much of their natural nesting habitat. Bluebirds are “cavity-nesters” and like to build nests in tree holes. As we began to cut down dying and dead trees rather than let them fall naturally, and began replacing wooden fenceposts with other materials to fence in farms and pastures, the eastern bluebird population began to decline dramatically.
Today, the bluebird population is beginning to rebound, thanks to the conservation efforts of many people and organizations who are committed to creating new habitat and human-made nesting cavities in the form of bluebird nesting boxes. Want to help bluebirds? Install a bluebird box! Head over to nabluebirdsociety.org for more information, and download the full Carolina Explorers article on eastern bluebirds (link below).