Pocosin is a type of palustrine wetland[1] with deep, acidic, sandy, peat soils. Groundwater saturates the soil except during brief seasonal dry spells and during prolonged droughts. Pocosin soils are nutrient-deficient (oligotrophic), especially in phosphorus.[2]

Pocosins occur in the southern portions of the Atlantic coastal plain of North America, spanning from southeastern Virginia, through North Carolina, and into South Carolina. However, the majority of pocosins are found in North Carolina.[3] The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1984 to help preserve pocosin wetlands.

A shot of a pocosin wetland in North Carolina
Pocosin wetland in North Carolina


Pocosins occupy poorly drained higher ground between streams and floodplains. Seeps cause the inundation. There are often perched water tables underlying pocosins.

Shrub vegetation is common. Pocosins are sometimes called shrub bogs. Pond pines (Pinus serotina) dominate pocosin forests, but loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) and longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) are also associated with pocosins. Additionally, pocosins are home to rare and threatened plant species including Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) and sweet pitcher plant (Sarracenia rubra).[2]

Healthy pocosin wetlands (7537178348)
Pocosin forested by pond pines and white cedars

A distinction is sometimes made between short pocosins, which have shorter trees (less than 20 feet (6.1 m)), deeper peat, and fewer soil nutrients, and tall pocosins, which have taller trees (greater than 20 feet (6.1 m)), shallow peat, and more nutrient-rich soil.[2] Where soil saturation is less frequent and peat depths shallower, pocosins transition into pine flatwoods. A loose definition of "pocosin" can include all shrub and forest bogs, as well as stands of Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) and loblolly pine on the Atlantic coastal plain. A stricter definition (promulgated by A. W. Kuchler) restricts pocosins to shrubby "short pocosins" and pond pine-forested "tall pocosins".[2]

Pocosins are formed by the accumulation of organic matter, resembling black muck, that is built up over thousands of years. This accumulation of material causes the area to be highly acidic and nutrient-deficient. The thickness of the organic buildup varies depending on one's location within the pocosin. Near the edges the buildup can be several inches thick but toward the center it can be up to several feet thick. Vegetation on the pocosin varies throughout. At the edges more pond pine is found with an abundance of titi, zenobia (a shrub unique to pocosins), and greenbrier vines.[4] Closer to the center thin, stunted trees are typically found however fewer shrubs and vines are present.[5]

Pocosins are very important for birds that live in cold climates during the winter months and migrate southward. The abundance of various types of available berries draws birds from colder areas.[5]

Pocosin ecosystems are fire-adapted (pyrophytic). Pond pines exhibit serotiny, such that wildfire can create a pond pine seedbed in the soil. Wildfires in pocosins tend to be intense, sometimes burning deep into the peat, resulting in small lakes and ponds.

Wildfires occurring about once a decade tend to cause pond pines to dominate over other trees, and cane (Arundinaria) rather than shrubs to dominate the understory. More frequent fires result in a pyrophytic shrub understory. Annual fires prevent shrub growth and thin the pond pine forest cover, creating a flooded savanna with grass, sedge, and herb groundcover.

The word pocosin comes from an Eastern Algonquian word meaning "swamp-on-a-hill",[1] however, a more accurate description of a pocosin would be a "raised bog".[4] The city of Poquoson, Virginia, located in the coastal plain of Virginia (see Tidewater region of Virginia), derives its name from this geographic feature.


  1. ^ a b Curtis J. Richardson (1983). "Pocosins: Vanishing Wastelands or Valuable Wetlands?". BioScience. 33 (10): 626–633. doi:10.2307/1309491. JSTOR 1309491.
  2. ^ a b c d Snyder, S. A. (1993). Pocosin. In: Fire Effects Information System, (Online). Fire Sciences Laboratory, United States Forest Service. Retrieved 2011-02-16.
  3. ^ Rapid Assessment Reference Condition Model: Potential Natural Vegetation Group: Pocosin. n.p. (2005). PDF. 9 Oct. 2013.
  4. ^ a b Pocosin Wilderness. Wilderness, n.p. n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2013.
  5. ^ a b Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain. n.p. n.d. PDF. 9 Oct. 2013.
Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula

Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula is a large peninsula (about 3,200 square miles) on the North Carolina coast, lying between the Albemarle Sound to the north and the Pamlico Sound to the south. The 5 counties of Dare, Hyde, Beaufort, Tyrrell, and Washington all lie wholly or partly on the peninsula.

Much of the peninsula is covered with marshland. The pocosin marshlands of the Albemarle-Pamlico peninsula drain into the Alligator River, an important link in the intracoastal waterway.

Forty four percent of the peninsula is owned by timber companies, and another twenty one percent of the peninsula is owned by agricultural corporations. This led to a great deal of deforestation on the peninsula in the 1980s, to the extent that only one third of the peninsula's pocosin marshlands continue to exist in their unaltered form. Soybeans, corn, pines, cattle, and hogs were all raised on the peninsula. Many of the larger farms have gone bankrupt, but some pine farms continue to exist on the peninsula.

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is a 152,000-acre (620 km2) National Wildlife Refuge located in eastern North Carolina along the Atlantic Coast. It was established on March 14, 1984, to preserve and protect a unique wetland habitat type—the pocosin—and its associated wildlife species.

The refuge attracts visitors worldwide for its red wolf (Canis rufus) howling programs and is also home to the Dare County Bombing Range.

Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge

The Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a 4,049 acre (16.4 km²) National Wildlife Refuge located in Lanier County, Georgia. Banks Lake is a natural pocosin or sink of ancient geologic origin. The refuge was established in 1985 for the protection and conservation of this unique environment as well as migratory and resident wildlife.

An estimated 20,000 people visit the refuge each year. There is no dedicated budget or staff for the refuge; it is administered completely by the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

Carolina Beach State Park

Carolina Beach State Park is a North Carolina state park in New Hanover County, North Carolina. It covers 761 acres (3.08 km2) on Pleasure Island. The state owns 420 acres (1.7 km2) of the park in fee simple, and the remainder of park land is leased from the Department of the Army. The park is located along the Cape Fear River and Snow's Cut (part of the Intracoastal Waterway).

Pocosin wetlands, a type of wetland that supports rare carnivorous plant species, are found in the park. Carnivorous plants found at this park include Venus flytraps, pitcher plants, butterworts and bladderworts.

The park features six miles of hiking trails. Other amenities include a marina, campsites, picnic area, and a visitor's center featuring natural history exhibits.

Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge

Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge, located in Carteret County, North Carolina, is on the end of a peninsula marking the southern end of Pamlico Sound. The refuge lies five miles (8 km) east of the Atlantic Ocean and about 40 miles (64 km) northeast of Beaufort, North Carolina. Established in 1964, the refuge consists of approximately 11,000 acres (45 km2) of irregularly flooded, brackish marsh and 3,480 acres (14.1 km2) of pocosin and woodland habitat. The dominant marsh plants include black needlerush, saltmarsh cordgrass, saltmeadow hay, and saltgrass. The woodland areas are dominated by loblolly, longleaf and pond pine. Live oak is also abundant on some upland sites. The marsh and surrounding waters provide wintering habitat for thousands of ducks and nesting habitat for colonial waterbirds.

Mammalian species that inhabit this refuge are gray squirrel, marsh rabbit, white-tailed deer, red fox, raccoon, bobcat, gray fox, nutria, beaver, muskrat, river otter, mink and opossum.

Croatan National Forest

The Croatan National Forest () is a U.S. National Forest, was established on July 29, 1936, and is located on the Atlantic coast of North Carolina. It is administered by the United States Forest Service, a part of the United States Department of Agriculture. The forest is managed together with the other three North Carolina National Forests (Nantahala, Pisgah, and Uwharrie) from common headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina. However, Croatan has a local ranger district office in New Bern.

Gales Creek, North Carolina

The Gales Creek area of Carteret County, North Carolina is part of the greater Newport, North Carolina area.Gales Creek empties into Bogue Sound, which is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by Bogue Banks, part of North Carolina's barrier islands known as the Southern Outer Banks.

A Presbyterian Church Camp, Camp Albemarle, is located near the mouth of Gales Creek at the former home of Henry Wilkins Hibbs, 1862–1942, the second mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida and the founder of that city's commercial fishing industry.

Upstream along Gales Creek and further into the Pocosin, was another camp for youth operated by the Eckerd Youth Alternatives program, Camp E-Ma-Henwu. It closed in 2009. Nearby Camp Sam Hatcher is a Boy Scout campground.

The area is included in the state-defined growing region for Bogue Sound Watermelons, an effort to market the area's traditional agricultural commodity following the model of the Vidalia Onion.

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is a National Wildlife Refuge located on North Carolina's Pea Island, a coastal barrier island and part of a chain of islands known as the Outer Banks, adjacent to Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The sanctuary is located 10 miles (16 km) south of Nags Head, North Carolina on NC 12.

The refuge's objectives are to provide nesting, resting, and wintering habitat for migratory birds, including the greater snow geese and other migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, raptors, and neotropical migrants, as well as habitat and protection for endangered and threatened species. Objectives also include providing opportunities for public enjoyment of wildlife and wildlands resources. Public use programs focus on interpretation, environmental education, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and fishing.

Pinus serotina

Pinus serotina, the pond pine, marsh pine or pocosin pine, is a pine tree found along the Southeastern portion of the Atlantic coastal plain of the United States, from southern New Jersey south to Florida and west to southern Alabama. This pine often has a crooked growth pattern and an irregular top and grows up to 21 metres (69 ft) high, rarely to 29 metres (95 ft).The needles are in bundles of three or four, and 15–20 cm (6–8 in) long. The almost round cones are 5–8 cm (2–3 1⁄4 in) long with small prickles on the scales. Its cones are usually serotinous, requiring fire to open. The pond pine is found in wet habitats near ponds, bays, swamps, and pocosins.The species name serotina is derived from the persistently unopened cones that may remain closed for several years before they release their seeds; the opening is often in response to forest fires.

At the north end of its range, it intergrades and hybridises with pitch pine (P. rigida); it is distinguished from that species by the longer needles and on average slightly larger cones. Some botanists treat pond pine as a subspecies of pitch pine.

Pocosin Fork

Pocosin Fork is a stream in the U.S. state of West Virginia.The creek most likely derives its name from the word pocosin (or poquosin) a type of marsh.

Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

The Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is located in North Carolina's Inner Banks on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula in Hyde, Tyrrell, and Washington Counties, North Carolina. Its headquarters is located in Columbia.

Pocosin Lakes NWR was established in 1990. Originally, the 12,000-acre (49 km2) southwestern portion of the refuge was established in 1963 as the Pungo National Wildlife Refuge, but was merged in 1990 with Pocosin Lakes. The National Wildlife Refuge is 110,106 acres (446 km2), and approximately 90,000 acres (364 km2) were donated.

This refuge is home to indigenous animals such as the black bear, alligator, two species of fox, bobcat, raccoon, coyote, opossum, beaver, river otter, mink, and red wolf.

On June 1, 2008, lightning struck the refuge and started a wildfire that had, as of 17 September 2008, spread to about 40,704 acres (164.72 km2), and was completely contained. The fire was declared out on January 9, 2009.

Pocosin Wilderness

Pocosin Wilderness was designated in 1984, and it covers 11,801 acres (48 km2) in the Croatan National Forest in eastern North Carolina. The Wilderness Area is a vast wetland, and it lacks trails and campsites. Travel through this wilderness is difficult.

Pond Pine Wilderness

Pond Pine Wilderness was designated in 1984, and it covers 1,693 acres (7 km2) in the Croatan National Forest in eastern North Carolina. The Wilderness Area is a vast wetland, and it lacks trails and campsites. Travel through this wilderness is difficult.

Shad boat

The shad boat is a traditional fishing boat which was proclaimed the Official State Historic Boat of North Carolina by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1987. One hundred years earlier, George Washington Creef of Roanoke Island built the first shad boat in North Carolina in the early 1880s. Creef shaped his boat hull from the root ball of Atlantic white cedar, also known as juniper, trees that grew along the shoreline of the pocosin wetland region of southeast Virginia and northeast North Carolina. The boat type is named after the shad which was the type of fish caught from the boats.

Initially, the shad boat had a round-bottomed hull and single mast rigged with a sprit sail. Oddly, the sprit rigged mainsail was often accompanied by a jib and a topsail. Later, in the early 1900s, the hull shape was altered into a hard chine "v" bottom to support an engine block. Once the "pickup truck" of the waters of eastern North Carolina, there are only a handful of relic shad boats left on Roanoke Island. One is on view at the George Washington Creef Boathouse in Manteo, where the curator, Scott Whitesides and volunteers replicated the Creef shad boat in 2002. Another shad boat, originally built by Alvira Wright in 1904, is undergoing restoration for eventual display at the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City. A shad boat is also on display at the Roanoke River Maritime Museum across the street from the replica Roanoke River Light in Plymouth.

Sheep Ridge Wilderness

Sheep Ridge Wilderness was designated in 1984, and it covers 9,315 acres (38 km2) in the Croatan National Forest in eastern North Carolina. The Wilderness Area is a vast wetland, and it lacks trails and campsites. Travel through this wilderness is difficult.

Tidewater (region)

Tidewater is a reference to the Atlantic coastal plain region of the United States of America. It includes the low-lying plains of southeast Virginia, northeastern North Carolina, southern Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay. The area got its name from the effects of the changing tides on local rivers, sounds, and the ocean; there is also a cultural heritage that sets the Tidewater regions apart from other parts of the United States. Tidewater region was founded on principles of English gentry in a developing nation where patriotism, freedom and waterborne livelihoods existed. Dialects are distinctive and eroding along with islands and shoreline.

Tidewater region is generally flat and low flooded river plains composed of tidal marsh and large expanses of swamp. Much of the area is covered with pocosin and the higher areas are used for agricultural farmlands. Geographically, in North Carolina and Virginia the Tidewater area is the land between the Suffolk Scarp and the Atlantic Ocean. In Maryland the Tidewater area is the flooded river areas below the Fall Line. The Hampton Roads area of Virginia is considered to be a Tidewater region. Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, parts of Delaware round out the northern part of the region on the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays.

The term tidewater may be correctly applied to all portions of any area, including Virginia, where the water level is affected by the tides (more specifically, where the water level rises when the tide comes in). In the case of Virginia, the Tidewater region includes the land east of the Fall Line, the natural border with the Piedmont Region. It includes Hampton Roads, the rest of the Virginia Peninsula, the Middle Peninsula, the Northern Neck, and the Eastern Shore.

Planters in the early American colonies extended their tobacco productions above the Fall Line, where waterfalls or rapids mark the end of the Tidewater and the beginning of the foothill region known as the Piedmont.Tidewater is host to flora commonly associated with the South Atlantic pine forests and lower Southeast Coastal Plain maritime flora, the latter found primarily in southeastern Virginia.

Upper Pocosin, Virginia

Upper Pocosin is an unincorporated community in Greene County, Virginia, United States.

Washington County, North Carolina

Washington County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 Census, the population was 13,228. Its county seat is Plymouth. The county was formed in 1799 from the western third of Tyrrell County. It was named for George Washington.

There are three incorporated towns in Washington County. Plymouth is the county seat. Other towns are Roper and Creswell. Washington County is known for rich farmland, extensive forests and abundant public access waters. The Roanoke River and Albemarle Sound form the northern boundary. Lake Phelps is 16,000 acres and is part of Pettigrew State Park in Creswell. Somerset Place is a restored antebellum plantation and NC Historic Site on Lake Phelps.

The Pungo Unit of the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in the southern part of the county is said to have the best public black bear viewing in North Carolina. This part of the State is known for having the world's largest black bears and highest black bear densities, according to the NC Black Bear Biologist, Colleen Olfenbuttel. The award-winning NC Black Bear Festival takes place in Plymouth on the first weekend in June.

White Oak Pocosin

The White Oak Pocosin is a large swamp in northern Onslow County and southern Jones County, North Carolina in the United States. It provides the headwaters of the White Oak River. The word pocosin is a Native American word meaning "swamp".

Classification systems

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