Fall Line and Franklin Tree

What’s in a name (or a logo)?

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From mountains to marshes, highlands to coastlines, the Southeast United States is one of the most biodiverse regions of the world. When seeking to capture the regional focus of our field school in one zippy phrase, this amazing diversity was a challenge: how do you fit all of the natural wonders of the Southeast into a name?

Then, we remembered the Fall Line. It’s a concept from geology referring to the place where the ancient ocean met the ancient shore. It’s a border place, a meeting place, a blending place. Early settlers often located towns near rivers along the Fall Line, because it generally marked the place where big boats carrying supplies could no longer make their way upstream. The Southern Fall Line arches from Virginia nearly to Mississippi, where today’s coastal plain meets the Piedmont and, beyond that, the southern Appalachian Mountains.

Our logo shows the flowering Franklin Tree, franklinia alatamaha, a member of the tea family observed by William Bartram on his travels through the Southeast in the late eighteenth century (and named by Bartram after Benjamin Franklin). Bartram took a specimen up to Philadelphia and propagated it. The tree was only ever reported to grow in one small area along the Altamaha River in South Georgia, and is no longer believed to exist in the wild. Fall Line South seeks to carry on the spirit of William Bartram — writer, naturalist, artist, and explorer — and his Travels (published in 1791) by inspiring a new generation of curious, compassionate individuals who care deeply for the natural world. We find in the image of the Franklin Tree an appreciation for rare beauty, and a motivation to preserve our Southern wildlands for future generations.

Jesslyn Shields and Catherine Meeks, Fall Line South Field Institute Co-Founders, 2014

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Thanks to the vastly brighter.jpgtalented Drew Weing and Monica Sheppard for creating this logo!