by Crystal Cockman

April 24, 2017

snail on pitcher plant[2]Snails are members of the phylum Mollusca and are in the taxonomic class Gastropoda. Slugs are also included in this class. There are 40,000 snail species, which is the largest group of living mollusks. Gastropods have a muscular foot used for movement. They breathe through either lungs or gills.

Snails have a single spirally coiled shell. Slugs lack a shell. Snails are actually born with their shells, though the shell of a baby snail, often referred to as a protoconch or “earliest shell” is colorless and very soft. Baby snails need to consume a lot of calcium to harden their shells, which starts with them eating the shell of the egg from which they hatched. As the snail grows, the shell grows with it. The snail grows new shell material, which also then hardens. The small center of the spiral of a snail’s shell is the original protoconch.

All land snails and slugs are hermaphrodites, producing both spermatozoa and ova, which means all individuals have the potential to lay eggs. Some freshwater and marine snails do have separate sexes. Not all land snails spend their entire life on land, some move between land and freshwater or saltwater. Most land snails have lungs and are pulmonates, but some live in moist areas and have gills.

Most snails have thousands of microscopic tooth-like structures on a ribbon-like tongue called a radula, which they use to rip apart food. A lot of snails are herbivorous, but some are omnivores or carnivores. Some snails even eat other snails.

Photo by John Gerwin.

I found one little snail sitting in the top of a pitcher plant near Black Ankle Bog. It is in the family Polygyridae, which are air breathing land snails, and characteristically have a thickened and somewhat reflexed edge at the opening of their shell. A friend of mine snapped a photo of another snail while out in the Uwharrie National Forest’s Badin Recreational Area. That species was Mesodon thyroidus, which is one of our larger species, as well as one of the most common across the state.

I did a study when I was in college in my ecology class looking at freshwater snails in Eno River State Park, and whether they were communal in nature. They did appear to hang together, but it could have also been that they were following a common food source.

I’m certain you’ve heard of the French eating snails, a dish called escargot, but snails are also eaten in a number of other countries, including places such as Nigeria, Italy, Vietnam, southwestern China, and parts of the United States. The process of raising snails for food is called heliciculture. The eggs of some snails are also eaten similar to caviar.

There are 200+ species of native terrestrial gastropods and 30+ introduced species of land snails or slugs in North Carolina. Approximately 52 species of freshwater snail are found in North Carolina. 74% of all freshwater snails in the United States and Canada are currently imperiled. Conservation efforts for snails have lagged behind conservation efforts for other freshwater species. There is a big need for a better understanding of what taxa exist and what their distribution is. Only by understanding more about snails and how they make their living, can we hope to conserve them.

Types of Turkey Calls

by Crystal Cockman


IMG_4980Yelps, purrs, cackles, clucks, gobbles – all sounds a turkey makes. The gobble is the sound all turkey hunters want to hear in the woods. It is the call that is meant to attract females and deter competing males. There are various types of yelp calls, some of which are meant to answer the question “where are you?” to reassemble turkeys that may have become scattered. Cackles are usually given as turkeys fly down from roosts. Purrs are made as birds travel and feed. Clucks may mean “come here.”

There are a variety of calls meant to mimic these natural turkey sounds used by turkey hunters of varying levels of expertise. The push button call is easy to use and is a favorite for beginning hunters. You simply push a button when you want to make a sound. They are made of wood and/or plastic, and can be used with one hand. They can even be mounted on a gunstock. One downfall of these calls is that they are sensitive to moisture. [Read more…]

A Native Species of Yucca

by Crystal Cockman

April 10, 2017

YIMG_5264ou may have been out wandering along a streamside in the Uwharries and noticed a strange occurrence – yucca plants along a hillside or bluff – and assumed they were escaped from someone’s yard. In actuality, they are native and belong in that landscape, and are known by the scientific name of Yucca filamentosa. Although yuccas are more classically thought of as desert and grassland plants found in the west, there are some native yuccas in the East.

Yucca filamentosa is a species of flowering plant, shrub actually, native to the southeastern United States from Virginia south to Florida into Mississippi and Louisiana. They are most commonly seen in sandy soils, along beaches or dunes, but are also found on rocky slopes, which is where they are most commonly seen in the Uwharries. Common names include Adam’s needle, Spanish bayonet, and needle palm. [Read more…]

Congaree – A Mysterious Forest of Champions

by Ruth Ann Grissom


IMG_0628The Uwharries have produced state champion longleaf and shortleaf pines, but the vast majority of loblollies in the region are harvested long before they reach maturity. I tend to think of them as a long-rotation crop. A recent visit to Congaree National Park near Columbia, S.C., reminded me of the loblolly’s glorious potential.

At more than 26,000 acres, the park encompasses the nation’s largest contiguous tract of southern old-growth bottomland forest. The canopy is among the tallest broadleaf forests in the world. Before Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the park boasted 14 state and seven national champion trees. Record species include understory trees such as pawpaw and American holly in addition to the loblolly and other canopy trees such as sweetgum and cherrybark oak.

[Read more…]

Fifth Annual Uwharrie Naturalist Weekend

by Crystal Cockman

April 4, 2017

UnknownThe LandTrust will host our 5th annual Uwharrie Naturalist Weekend on May 13th this year. The Naturalist Weekend is a one of a kind event in the Uwharries. It is a day of nature exploration and showcases the 1,300-acre Low Water Bridge Preserve on the Uwharrie River in Montgomery County.

John Gerwin, ornithologist at the North Carolina Museum of Sciences in Raleigh, will lead a morning hike, pointing out unique bird species by sight and sound along the way. Neotropical migrant songbirds will be abundant at this time of year, and the hike will also feature discussions about native plants, reptiles, amphibians, and other species found along the way. The hike will begin at 9:00am.

We will also have a paddle down the Uwharrie River during the morning, starting at 11:00am. The event is free if you bring your own boat. If you would like to use one of our boats, the fee is $35. [Read more…]