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:


"Education," North Carolina Native Plant Society, accessed January 24, 2019, https://ncwildflower.org/native_plants/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).

Additional Resources:

List of Endangered North Carolina Plants: https://www.ncnatural.com/wildflwr/endangrd.html


"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 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).


Image posted by Flickr user 'Greenery', "Swamp Mallow (Hibisbus Moscheutos)". Image taken on June 21, 2006. Available from https://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. (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. https://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.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).

Origin - location: 
From: 

Comments

Comment: 

Hi,

Do you know where I can find a list of plants native to the Piedmont of North Carolina which are edible by humans? Not "wild" plants, but native plants.

Thanks much for your consideration.

Joe Hartman
Raleigh, NC

Comment: 

Hello Joe,

The NC Botanical Gardens at the University of North Carolina has a very knowledgable staff. I would suggest contacting either Laura Mindlin, the Edible Campus Program Manager, at 919-962-9633, or Alan Weakley, Director of the Herbarium, at 919-962-0578.

I hope you find what you need. Please feel free to respond back here with more questions or comments.

Best Wishes,

Christopher Luettger - NC Government and Heritage Library

Comment: 

Why would different parts of North Carolina have different plant species?

Comment: 

Hello Nicole,

The diverse geography of North Carolina creates different ecosystems in each of the regions which support very different forms of plant and animal life.

You can learn more about the regions and our state's geography here: https://www.ncpedia.org/geography-0.

I hope this helps answer your question. Please feel free to respond here with any other questions.

Best wishes,

Christopher Luettger - NC Government and Heritage Library.

Comment: 

cool

Comment: 

why dont they show the wild plants throughout the entire state? i just dont get it. :(

Comment: 

Hi Haley,

Thanks for visiting NCpedia.

Are you looking for information about other plants that are not shown on this page?  If so, please let me know what plant or plants you're interested in and I will try to help you find information.  This page lists common species -- if there is something missing that we should include, I would be happy to investigate and add it.

If you're interested in photos of plants, we unfortunately can't get an image of every plant on the list onto this page.  But if you're interested in a photo of a particular plant you may want to search for that plant in NCpedia.  If we have an article on the plant, there is most likely a photo to go along with it.

Please let me know if I can help you find additional information.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library

Comment: 

Thats a great news

Comment: 

How many plant species are in the United States of America?????

Comment: 

Hi Michelle --

That's a good question!  You might find this page at the U.S. Department of Agriculture helpful for answering questions about plant species in the U.S.

http://plants.usda.gov/java/

Librarians at your local public library are also a good resource for helping find answers to questions like yours.

Good luck with your research!

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

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