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.
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:
Gaillardia (aka Fire-Wheel, Indian Blanket)
Hypercium (aka St. John's Wart)
Long Leaf Pine
Palmetto (especially on Smith Island, aka Bald Head Island, and other southern islands)
Pocosin (aka Bay, Shrub Bog)
Scrubby Post Oak
Southern Red Oak
Swamp Chestnut Oak
Swamp Mallow (aka Marshmallow, Swamp Rose)
Variety of herbs
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
Below is a list of several plant species found throughout the Piedmont Region:
Carolina Shagbark Hickory
Northern Red Oak
Several spring and summer flowering herbs
Southern Red Oak
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:
Swamp Chestnut Oak
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:
Few herbs sparsely scattered
Northern Red Oak
Table Mountain Pine
Boreal Conifer Forests:
Beech Yellow Birch
Ferns and herbs present
Mosses and Liverworts abundant
"Education," North Carolina Native Plant Society, accessed January 24, 2019, https://ncwildflower.org/education/.
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, https://www.ncnatural.com/wildflwr/coastal/index.html (accessed April 3, 2012).
List of Endangered North Carolina Plants: https://www.ncnatural.com/wildflwr/endangrd.html
"Native Plants of North and South Carolina," Plant Native, https://plantnative.org/rpl-ncsc.htm (accessed April 3, 2012).
Photo courtesy of NC Hiker, "Pink Rhododendrom," Posted June 14, 2011. Photo taken at Roan Mountain. Available from https://www.flickr.com/photos/nc_hiker/5839567616 (accessed April 4, 2012).
Photo courtesy of NC Orchid, "Venus Flytraps", posted on October 1, 2004. (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 https://www.flickr.com/photos/bumeister/2793592794 (accessed April 4, 2012).
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Konomike. "Loblolly Pine." Photo taken in Johnston County, NC. Posted on April 26, 2009. (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. (accessed April 4, 2012).
Photo courtesy of Flikr user BlueRidgeKitties. "Tulip Poplar!" Photo taken on May 20, 2010 in Laxon, NC.https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://www.flickr.com/photos/blueridgekitties/6116641888/ (accessed April 4, 2012).
1 January 2012 | Horton, Emily S.