NC's Regional Diversity
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.
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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.
Western North Carolina is comprised of 23 counties that lie almost entirely within the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Southern 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.
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.
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