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North Carolina Regional Vegetation

by Emily Horton
NC Government & Heritage Library, 2012.

Quick Introduction to North Carolina Plant Life:

  • North Carolina has over 4000 native plant species.
  • North Carolina is home to 26 endangered plant species in the United States.
  • North Carolina has over 700 rare plant species, and 162 of these are threatened or endangered in North Carolina.

List of Endangered North Carolina Plants: http://www.ncagr.gov/plantindustry/plant/plantconserve/plist.htm

The wide variety of landforms found in the three regions of North Carolina is evident in the extreme range of vegetation throughout the state. Click on one of the three regions below to see a list of some of the most common plants found in each region.

The Coastal Plain

The Piedmont

The Mountains

 

The Coastal Plain

Clockwise from top left: (1) "Pink Rhododendron," photo courtesy of Flickr user 'NC Hiker', Posted June 14, 2011. Photo taken at Roan Mountain. (2) "Sea Oats and Ocean Surf," photo courtesy of Flickr user 'Bumeister1',  Image posted on July 18, 2008. Photo taken at <a  data-cke-saved-href=

Marshes and dunes are predominate vegetation types in the Outer Coastal Plain. Additionally, there are areas of preserved forests, which include: Nags Head Woods Preserve of the Nature Conservancy, Hatteras Woods in Buxton, and others scattered throughout Bougue Banks.

The Inner Coastal Plain is home to many swampforests and hardwood swampforests, a a feature which distinguishes it from the the Tidewater sub-region of the Coastal Plains.

Below is a list of several common plant species found throughout the entire Coastal Plains:

Asters
Beech
Black Gum
Blackjack Oak
Catbrier
Cypress
Dotted Horsemint
Dwarf Huckleberry
Gaillardia (aka Fire-Wheel, Indian Blanket)
Gallberry
Goldenrods
Hickory
Hophornbeam
Hypercium (aka St. John's Wart)
Laurel Oak
Lilies
Loblolly Pine
Loblolly Bay
Long Leaf Pine
Orchids
Palmetto (especially on Smith Island, aka Bald Head Island, and other southern islands)
Pine
Pine Hickory
Pitcher Plants
Pocosin (aka Bay, Shrub Bog)
Pond Pine
Post Oak
Purple Rhododendron
Red Cedar
Red Maple
Scrubby Post Oak
Sea Oats
Southern Red Oak
Sunflowers
Swamp Chestnut Oak
Swamp Mallow (aka Marshmallow, Swamp Rose)
Sweet Bay
Sweet Gum
Tulip Poplar
Turkey Oak
Variety of herbs
Venus Flytrap
Water Oak
Wax Myrtle
White Oak
Willow Oak
Wire Grass
Yaupon
Yellow Jessamine

Marshes: Bulrush, Cattail, Cordgrass, Needlerush, Saw Grass
Dunes: Beach Pea, Broomsedge, Croton, Dune Elder, Perennial Grasses, Primrose,; Spurge
Swamp Forests: Cypress Tree, Gum-Cypress Tree
Hardwood Swamp Forests: Ash, Cherrybark Oak, Elm, River Birch, Sweet Gum, Sycamore, Water Oak, Willow Oak

The Piedmont:

Clockwise from top left: (1) "Loblolly Pine," photo courtesy of Flickr user 'Konomike', Photo taken in Johnston County, NC. Posted on April 26, 2009. (2) "Oak Tree and Bench," photo courtesy of Flickr user 'Bumeister',  Image taken in Chapel Hill, NC on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus. Photo taken on November 19, 2007. (3) "Sweet Gum Seed Tree Pod," Photo courtesy of Flickr user 'Ivy Dawned',  Photo taken on September 24, 2008. (4) "Tulip Poplar!" photo courtesy of Flikr user 'BlueRidgeKitties', Photo taken on May 20, 2010 in Laxon, NC.Below is a list of several plant species found throughout the Piedmont Region:

Beech
Blackjack Oak
Carolina Shagbark Hickory
Chestnut Oak
Crabgrass (weed)
Hemlock (scattered)
Horseweed (weed)
Loblolly Pine
Northern Red Oak
Post Oak
Purple Rhododendron
Sand Hickory
Scarlet Oak
Several spring and summer flowering herbs
Shortleaf Pine
Southern Red Oak
Tulip Poplar
White Oak
White Pine
White Tipped Aster (weed)

Like the Inner Coastal Plain, the Piedmont has many hardwood swampforests, which are located in the floodplains. Some of the vegetation in the Swampforests include:
Ash
Elm
River Birch
Swamp Chestnut Oak
Sweet Gum
Sycamore
Tulip Poplar
Willow Oak

The Mountain Region:

Clockwise from top left: (1) "Christmas Tree Production," photo courtesy of Flickr user 'Soil Science', Photo taken on October 19, 2010. (2) "Blackberries to be,"Photo courtesy of Flickr user 'BlueRidgeKitties', photo taken on June 3, 2011 at Grandfather Mountain, NC. (3) "Mountain Ash," Photo courtesy of Flickr user 'BlueRidgeKitties', photo taken on September 4, 2011 at Grandfather Mountain, NC. (4) "Hemlock at the Church," photo courtesy of Melina Stuart. Photo taken on January 7, 2011 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.The Mountains have two distinct areas of vegetation: the Deciduous Forests, which have more species of trees than all of Europe combined, and the Boreal Conifer Forests.

Below are lists of plant species predominately found in each of these areas:

Deciduous Forests:
Beech
Blackberry
Black Gum
Black Locust
Butternut Hickory
Chestnut Oak
Cucumber Tree
Dogwood
Few herbs sparsely scattered
Flame Azalea
Fraser Magnolia
Hemlock
Lack Oak
Mountain Laurel
Northern Red Oak
Red Maple
Rosebay Rhododendron
Scarlet Oak
Shortleaf Pine
Silverbell
Sourwood
Sugar Maple
Table Mountain Pine
Tulip Poplar
Virginia Pine
White Ash
White Basswood
White Oak
Yellow Birch
Yellow Buckeye

Boreal Conifer Forests:
Balsam
Beech Yellow Birch
Blueberry
Ferns and herbs present
Fir
Fire Cherry
Flame Azalea
Fraser Fir
Hawthorn
Mosses and Liverworts abundant
Mountain Ash
Mountain Laurel
Plott Balsam
Purple Rhododendron
Red Spruce
Rosebay Rhododendron
Shadblow
Spruce
Sugar Maple
Yellow Birch
Yellow Buckeye

Sources:

"North Carolina Native Plant Society"," last modified 2008, http://www.ncwildflower.org/natives/natives.htm (accessed April 3, 2012).

Orr, Douglas M. The North Carolina Atlas: Portrait for a New Century. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. 2000.

"The NC Natural Guide to Coastal Flowers of the NC Coast Barrier Islands," Last modified 2003, http://www.ncnatural.com/wildflwr/coastal/index.html (accessed April 3, 2012).

Additional Resources:
List of Endangered North Carolina Plants: http://www.ncnatural.com/wildflwr/endangrd.html

Pushy Plants and Alient Animals: K-5 Teachers: http://sites.naturalsciences.org/invasives/k-5.htm

"Native Plants of North and South Carolina," Plant Native, http://www.plantnative.org/rpl-ncsc.htm (accessed April 3, 2012).

Image Credits:

Photo courtesy of NC Hiker, "Pink Rhododendrom," Posted June 14, 2011. Photo taken at Roan Mountain. Available from http://www.flickr.com/photos/nc_hiker/5839567616 (accessed April 4, 2012).

Photo courtesy of NC Orchid, "Venus Flytraps", posted on October 1, 2004. Available from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ncorchid/47549994 (accessed April 4, 2012).

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Bumeister1, "Sea Oats and Ocean Surf." Image posted on July 18, 2008. Photo taken at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Outerbanks, NC. Available from http://www.flickr.com/photos/bumeister/2793592794 (accessed April 4, 2012).

Image posted by Flickr user 'Greenery', "Swamp Mallow (Hibisbus Moscheutos)". Image taken on June 21, 2006. Available from http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenery/208097577 (accessed April 4, 2012).

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Konomike. "Loblolly Pine." Photo taken in Johnston County, NC. Posted on April 26, 2009. Available from http://www.flickr.com/photos/baltimike/3478126998/ (accessed April 4, 2012).

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Bumeister. "Oak Tree and Bench". Image taken in Chapel Hill, NC on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus. Photo taken on November 19, 2007. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bumeister/2166787092 (accessed April 4, 2012).

Photo courtesy of Flikr user BlueRidgeKitties. "Tulip Poplar!" Photo taken on May 20, 2010 in Laxon, NC.http://www.flickr.com/photos/blueridgekitties/4625196819 (accessed April 4, 2012).

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ivy Dawned. Photo taken on September 24, 2008. Available from http://www.flickr.com/photos/blueridgekitties/4625196819 (accessed April 4, 2012).

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Soil Science. "Christmas Tree Production." Photo taken on October 19, 2010. Available from http://www.flickr.com/photos/soilscience/5097054069 (accessed April 4, 2012).

Photo courtesy of Flickr user BlueRideKitties. Photo taken on June 3, 2011 at Grandfather Mountain, NC. Available from www.flickr.com/photos/blueridgekitties/5802076402/ (accessed April 4, 2012).

Photo courtesy of Melina Stuart. "Hemlock at the Church." Photo taken on January 7, 2011 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Available from http://www.flickr.com/photos/melystu/5333639810/ (accessed April 4, 2012).

Photo courtesy of Flickr user 'BlueRidgeKitties', "Mountain Ash." Photo taken on September 4, 2011 at Grandfather Mountain, NC. Available from http://www.flickr.com/photos/blueridgekitties/6116641888/ (accessed April 4, 2012).

Origin - location: 
From: 

Comments

Comment: 

I belong to a garden club and need to present information about a new plant each month, Sept through May. I would like to present a new native plant that could be planted in our gardens...is this possible, and can you help me find a list of plants, details about these plants, and a source for the plants. I would like to "show one" each month, I believe this would reinforce the information given about the plant. Thank you!!!

Comment: 
Hello, 
Thank you for posting your question. If you are located in North Carolina, here are two resources that may help. 
Cooperative Extension at NCSU has some resources on native plants at http://www.ncsu.edu/goingnative/.
The North Carolina Native Plant Society may also be able to help. Their website is http://www.ncwildflower.org/.
If you need additional resources, please feel free to contact Reference Services at the NC Government and Heritage Library. Contact information for them may be found at http://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/contact.html. 
Good luck in your research!
Best,
Michelle Underhill
Digital Information Management Program, NC Government & Heritage Library.
Comment: 

There is not much about the Mountains region, still a good search

Comment: 

My wife and myself have a small plot in Lansing NC. The state is putting a new paved road along side of property. They have graded and improved a section of our land. Most of it has a incline that will be hard to walk on. We have a clean slate to work with and would like some advice on what would be good to plant on the the steeper section to help erosion. Grass has been planted but has not started growing as of yet. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Comment: 

Thanks for writing! I am forwarding your question to our reference department who can assist you. Their contact information is here: http://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/contact.html

T. Mike Childs, NCpedia, N.C. Government & Heritage Library.

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