Extending from Roanoke to Mount Oglethorpe and bounded by the Appalachian Mountains, the Southern Highlands is one of the most diverse natural areas in North America. From beautiful flora like the Fraser magnolia to rare ecosystems such as the mountain cedar glades, the area has been an inspiration for writers and naturalists since it was first explored by William Bartram in 1775. Investigate the biology of the cloudless sulphur butterfly, whose erratic flight is used to confuse its prey. Discover the botany of the white ash tree, said to produce the most satisfying crack of a baseball bat. Essayist, poet and naturalist George Ellison explores the abundant wonders of the Southern Highlands in a series of humorous, scientific and literary essays vividly illustrated by artist Elizabeth Ellison.
George Ellison lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina, adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee Indian Reservation. His columns appear in the Asheville Citizen-Times; Chinquapin: The Newsletter of the Southern Appalachian; and the Smoky Mountain News. He conducts annual natural and human history workshops for the North Carolina Arboretum, Native Plant Conference at Western Carolina University and the Smoky Mountain Field School.
"Whoever said You can't judge a book by its cover hasn't seen George Ellison's latest project. Titled Literary Excursions of the Southern Highlands, both its front and back covers feature paintings by the author's wife, Bryson City artist Elizabeth Ellison. Accompanying words indicate the book contains essays in natural history and provides the reader with a journey of natural splendor along the Blue Ridge. Once the book is opened, those promises are kept on every page. George Ellison's essay topics include both animals and plants with locations ranging from his front yard to the wider Southern Appalachian region. Elizabeth Ellison s art gives readers a taste of the visual splendor nature offers up around every corner."
– The Sylva Herald
"In 50 essays, Ellison offers more than an overview of the various plants, animals, insects and landscapes of the Southern Blue Ridge Province. He quietly reminds us of the most rewarding, but often overlooked components of life: observation and deliberation. For the most part, Ellison writes, we tend to take many astonishing things in our everyday world for granted. With that said, the writing certainly does offer plenty of insight and information about the natural world. From morning cloak butterflies to the Blue Ridge Mountains, nothing is too small or too big. Ellison's descriptions are thoughtful, illuminating and precise. In one instance, a snail's movement is compared to a miniature sailboat, veering gracefully this way and that."
– Mountain Xpress
"In a series of humorous, scientific and literary essays, with illustrations by Elizabeth Ellison, author George Ellison reflects on the natural wonders of the Southern Highlands. Ellison is both poet and naturalist, and he uses his gifts to infuse life into the botany and biology of our region's natural world. That he lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina is apparent in the admiration he has for his subject."
– Watauga Democrat