National Geographic : 1917 Jan
Photograph by D. B . Church A PLOWED FIELD, PART OF WHICH WAS CULTIVATED JUST BEFORE THE ERUPTION The line between cultivated and fallow ground remains perfectly distinct after four years. Cultivation just before the eruption destroyed most of the weeds and no new ones have been able to start. The uncultivated land has grown a mass of fireweed, whose bloom is conspicuous for miles-illustrating the importance of residual vegetation. fore, it must not be supposed that the old order of things has completely returned. The new vegetation is not altogether the same as that which was destroyed. It is true that the species are the same as those dominant before the eruption, but the smaller species which formerly grew with the dominant plants were unable to pierce the ash blanket and were smothered. This is particularly true in the bogs or tundras, which formerly covered consid erable areas. Even four or five inches of the ash was fatal to the bog plants, whose extermination was so nearly complete that it is difficult to find even individual survivors. Thus while the salmon-berries and high-bush blueberries are finer than ever, the low-bush blueberries and cranberries are entirely lacking. The exposed mountain tops were for merly covered with an alpine heath con taining many of the same species that grew in the bogs, and to them the erup tion was similarly fatal. While the sides of the mountains are covered with ver dure, their tops are largely barren wastes covered with ash drifts and the skeletons of the former vegetation. THE NEW VEGETATION CAME ROM OLD ROOTS One would have supposed from the appearance of the country at the end of the first season after the eruption that practically all plants except the trees and bushes had been destroyed, and that re vegetation must be due to new seedlings started on the ash. Such, however, is not the case. Excavation of the root sys tems of the new plants shows that they are old perennials which have come through the ash from the old soil. Where cultivation destroyed the weeds, the land is still absolutely bare except for an occasional weed which escaped de struction by the plow. The fallow ground, on the other hand, is a mass of fireweed whose bloom is conspicuous for miles (see the picture above).