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Much to Learn!

Check our list of books about native plants

What are Natives?

Native species are those that occur naturally in an area, having not been introduced by human action.

Over time, they have evolved with the physical and biological factors specific to their region, such as climate, soil, rainfall, and interactions with other plants, animals, and insects that live in the area.

Thus, they are uniquely adapted to the local conditions and the area’s wildlife, including important pollinators and migratory birds.

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An ecologically diverse mosaic of growing conditions and habitats in NC leads to the 4000 native plant species constituting part of NC’s precious natural resources.

Planting a garden? Grow natives. Why? From celebrating our natural heritage to providing food and shelter for native wildlife, the benefits are manifold.

Visit the Plant Gallery to browse for plants that may work well in your garden. The clickable-letters take you to lists ordered by scientific name. You can also do a regular simple search from the main pages, or perform an Advanced Search. Search for things such as soil type, sunlight and Common Names. There is also a Pictures-only browsing option. Clicking on a plant’s name you like takes you to its details page.

Consider joining a local Chapter of the NC Native Plant Society near you – or start one! We have many special Events you may be interested in also!

Have fun learning about native plants! Browse the entire site!

NC’s Regional Diversity

map of NC showing regions

Geographically, the state of North Carolina can be split into four major regions: mountains, piedmont, sand hills and coastal. Each of these regions provides a rich variety of ecological habitats, supporting more than 4,000 native plant species.

Download a copy of this map as a PDF for printing on letter paper!


The Southern Appalachians are known worldwide for their exceptional variety of plants and animals. This mountain region owes its great diversity to the highly variable climate, topography, and its unique geologic past.

map showing nc as part of southern appalachia region

Western North Carolina is comprised of 23 counties that lie almost entirely within the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Soutehrn Appalachians. Soils in this region tend to be well drained, loamy, strongly acidic, and low in natural fertility. Site conditions for plants are determined by the topography, soil pH and depth, elevation, amount of sunlight, and availability of water.

map of wnc counties in the blue ridge mountains

These varying site conditions support a mosaic of native plant communities such as:

  • Dry, south-facing slopes have extremely acidic soils that support evergreens such as mountain laurel and pines, as well as oaks, huckleberry, blueberries, and hickories.
  • Moist, north-facing slopes support a mixed evergreen and hardwood community type frequently dominated by hemlock, tulip poplar, and maple.
  • Species-rich cove hardwood forests dominate lower slopes and creek drainages. These sheltered sites support a broad range of flowering understory trees, showy ferns and wildflowers, and dense stands of rosebay rhododendron.