Encompassing five distinct geographic regions, Georgia occupies an ecologically diverse region of the United States. It stretches from the southern reaches of Appalachia to the Atlantic coast, covering nearly 60,000 square miles in dense forest, mountains and rolling lowlands. Each of Georgia's five regions presents a distinct type of ecosystem, providing abundant habitat for numerous plant and animals species.
Occupying much of Georgia's northwestern corner, the Ridge and Valley region is comprised of several narrow, parallel valleys separated by low ridges. It is a forested region dominated by tree species such as eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis). Along the forest floor a profusion of small flowering plants thrive, including mountain skullcap (Scutellaria montana). An endangered flower, mountain skullcap is known for its tubular white flowers. Numerous animal species dwell within the Ridge and Valley region, including Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) and the southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans), as well as bird species such as the northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos).
The smallest geologic region in Georgia is the Appalachian plateau. It occupies the extreme northwesterly corner of the state and includes dense forest and rugged, mountainous terrain, which exceeds 4,000 feet in altitude in some areas. Trees such as basswood (Tilia Americana), tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) and mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) occur with the greatest frequency at low altitudes, with stands of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) covering its higher slopes. The forests of Georgia's Appalachian region provide rich habitat for a variety of animal species, including the eastern cottontail rabbit (Silvilagus floridanus) and gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus).
The Blue Ridge region occupies the northeastern corner of Georgia, bordering North and South Carolina. Characterized by dramatic mountain ridges and wide valleys, it presents a variety of climatic conditions appropriate for many plant species. Forests of chestnut oak (Quercus prinus) and pignut hickory (Carya glabra) cover the lower slopes of the region, as well as understory shrubs such as mountain azalea (Rhododendron canescens). Numerous large animal species thrive within the Blue Ridge region, including white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and the American black bear (Ursus americanus).
Characterized by rolling lowlands and broad river valleys, the Piedmont region is home to the widest variety of mixed forest in the southeastern United States. Vast woodlands of shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) and loblolly pine (P. taeda) mix with deciduous species such as red maple (Acer rubrum), creating a diverse ecosystem for a wide range of animals. The striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) and bobcat (Lynx rufus) thrive throughout the Piedmont region, as well as bird species such as the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo).
The largest geographic region in Georgia, the Coastal Plain region dominates two-thirds of the state. Known for its flat topography and fertile soil, the Coastal Plain has long been exploited for agriculture. Tracts of native forest still exist along the coast and in rural areas, and include stands of redgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) and slash pine (Pinus elliottii) trees. Dominated by a moist, subtropical climate, Georgia's Coastal Plain region is home to unusual animal species, such as the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), as well as coyote (Canis latrans) and wild pig (Sus scrofa).
- "Native Trees of the Southeast"; L. Katherine Kirkman; 2007
- "Forest Plants of the Southeast and Their Wildlife Uses"; James H. Miller; 2005
- "Georgia Wildlife: An Introduction to Familiar Species"; James Kavanagh; 2008