The Fall Line

The Fall Line separates the Piedmont province from the Coastal Plain. It is the original eastern continental coast, as its sand hills attest. The zone is readily identified by the cities that later developed at the falls where water power was obtainable for manufacturing, clear water was available for industrial use, and clean water was found for human consumption. Far up the rivers that fed the coastal communities—such as Williamsburg, Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah —malaria was rare, the "bad air" not affecting health and hindering development. A line joining Georgetown (now a part of Washington, D.C.), Richmond, Raleigh, Durham, Columbia, Augusta, Macon, and Columbus mark the route of an Indian trail joining these Fall Line present-day cities.

Tree vegetation on the Fall Line in the Carolinas consists largely of longleaf pine and its scrub oak associates. To the south, all of the southern pines compete to control these sites; but the scrub oaks have an advantage; they endure droughty soils better. Indeed, foliage on the oaks growing in the hot, solar-reflecting sands in the Carolinas gradually twist on their petioles to a vertical position at high noon. The foliage returns to the horizontal late in the day when transpiration is minimal. This phenomenon thus conserves sparse supplies of soil moisture for tree growth.

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