Vegetation and Animal Life

The number of plant species in the state is estimated at 4,500. Present vegetation regions differ greatly from what would be the natural vegetation as a result of human habitation. Treeless plains fringe the Gulf of Mexico, while freshwater marshes support floating plants. At slightly higher elevations stands of moss-festooned live oaks characterize the landscape. The prairie grasses in the southwest, inland from the marsh, are divided by gallery forests growing along streams. Longleaf pines grow north of the prairies in the west and north of Lake Pontchartrain in the east. The northwestern corner of the state supports drought-resistant loblolly pine, oak, and hickory. Along smaller streams dogwood, redbud, and hackberry can be found. The floodplains of the major rivers have hardwoods on the well-drained soils and cypress in the swamps. In the lower swamps, blackgum, red maple, and palmetto grow with the cypress. Bluff land hardwoods include oak, maple, dogwood, tulip, and hickory. Louisiana has always had abundant animal life. Squirrels, turkeys, beavers, muskrat, mink, raccoon, opossums, and alligators are common today. Nutrias have increased following their introduction in the 1930s, and large numbers of armadillos have migrated from the Southwest. A variety of fish is found inland and in the adjacent Gulf waters.


Louisiana's mineral resources are few in number but are economically important. Deposits of petroleum are found in the Mississippi delta area. To the west, increasing amounts of natural gas occur with petroleum. Large quantities of these minerals have also been extracted to the north, but since the 1940s drilling has moved offshore, with some rigs operating more than 95 km (60 mi) from the coast. Much of Louisiana's petroleum is associated with coastal salt domes. Extraction of salt is now mostly from the domes in the southern part of the state, particularly from the Five Islands--Avery, Belle Isle, Cote Blanche, Jefferson, and Weeks. Sulfur, sand, gravel, clays, lime, shell, and gypsum are also extracted. Lignite occurs in the northwest.

Because of concern for the preservation of the natural environment, a number of state environmental protection agencies have been formed. Louisiana also operates commissions for the protection of wildlife and participates in the research work of the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission.

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